Radioactivity worries hold up treatment of fracking wastewater

Radioactivity worries hold up treatment of fracking wastewater by Michael Gorman, October 2, 2012, The Chronicle Herald
Atlantic Industrial Services has 4.5 million litres of waste water from a hydraulic fracturing operation it wants to treat at its Debert facility. The water would then be transferred into the Municipality of the County of Colchester’s sewage treatment plant. The difficulty for councillors and some citizens is that the water contains traces of naturally occurring radioactive materials. Coun. Bob White, whose district includes Debert, said he is unhappy the municipality only learned the material was in the area after the company applied for the permit. There are also a number of unknowns that White said make him and other residents nervous. “(We want to know) what’s in there, are there any airborne issues, have they been treating it without us even knowing and what comes out in the end that they want to dump in our sewage treatment plant.” White said he is uncertain where the waste water came from, although it is definitely from outside Colchester County. A representative for Atlantic Industrial Services could not be reached for comment. Ramesh Ummat, the municipality’s director of public works, said the radioactive material, which occurs naturally underground, entered the waste water during the flow-back process of fracking. “(It) does not fall under the category of radioactive waste,” said Ummat. “It’s what is there in nature.” … Provincial environment officials have said in the past that there are stringent guidelines for treating flow-back fluid and further guidelines when it comes to putting anything in the municipal system. Atlantic Industrial Services is required to ask for a disclosure and test of materials from companies to determine if it can treat fluids before accepting them. During its meeting last week, council asked Ummat to determine if existing bylaws cover the requested operation. If they do, Ummat was directed not to issue a permit until an appeal process can happen. “(Residents) are concerned about their health, so they want us to make sure we’re doing the right thing and we’re on top of it, which we are,” said White. [Emphasis added]

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