The Flint water connection to fracking

Download PDF
DCIM100MEDIA

The Karegnondi pipeline running from Flint to Lake Huron might be a conduit to forcing more residents off of groundwater wells that will be affected by fracking, and onto the Karegnondi water system. Photo from Karegnondi.org

by LuAnne Kozma

People have been contacting us about the possibility that one reason for Flint’s plans for a new pipeline for water from Lake Huron through the recently formed Karegnondi Water Authority, is to provide water to the frack industry. This first came up in a blogpost “Could the Flint water crisis have its origins in a desire to open up new areas of Michigan to fracking?” and it’s been repeated in other reporting, such as Motor City Muckraker and Eclectablog.

The more likely connection: free groundwater for the frackers, Karegnondi water at a price for everyone else

UnknownA connection is there, but unless new evidence turns up, it’s not that the new Karegnondi pipeline necessarily would provide water directly to the frack industry. Instead, the likely scenario is that as the gas and oil industry drills and/or fracks in the Genesee, Lapeer, Sanilac, and St. Clair county areas along the pipeline’s routes, residential water wells will go bad and become contaminated, forcing residents to tie in (buy in) to the new Karegnondi water system, making them rate-paying water customers.

Monetizing water for people who currently get their water from groundwater wells is perhaps part of the business plan behind Karegnondi. Michigan has more private groundwater drinking wells providing water to residents and municipalities than any other state. The more the frackers can have access to that water, pushing more and more people off the groundwater supply and onto privatized or monetized sources, the better for the oil and gas industry, and the much worse for the public.

Download the Karegnondi pipeline map pdf.

The state’s role in oil and gas development 

Most people think the DEQ “does its job” by protecting human health and the environment, and resources like water, above all else. Not so with oil and gas. The Oil, Gas and Minerals Division of the DEQ is in charge of oil and gas development in the state, and issues permits for frack wells. Michigan DEQ is required by state law to

“foster the development of the [gas and oil] industry along the most favorable conditions, with a view to the ultimate recovery of the maximum production of these natural products.” (MCL 324.61502)

“Drill, baby, drill” is written right into the law. This must change. It’s been there since 1939. The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has written a ballot initiative to change this statute, ban fracking and frack wastes, and ban acidizing in horizontal well bores.

The state has a deeper, darker “role”: It also makes money from the production of oil and gas. In effect, the state is a business partner with the oil and gas industry, even though, it’s supposed to be regulating it. In this case, “regulating” means giving them every opportunity to extract fossil fuels and make a profit.

It’s more insidious than that. Much like the lead industry waged a campaign to outfit the nation’s infrastructure with their deadly lead pipes (see: The Lead Industry and Lead Water Pipes: A “Modest Campaign”) we see these same devices being used today by the oil and gas industry to install their deadly infrastructure of natural gas plants, frack wells, compressor stations, toxic injection wells, and pipelines.

And the DEQ is right there with industry, promoting it, and mouthing the same propaganda. Brad Wurfel, the disgraced former DEQ spokesperson who recently resigned for his despicable role in the #FlintWaterCrisis (and who said “anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax”) has repeated frack industry talking points like “new fracking technology is a potential game changer for this country.” He also said: “The state’s regulatory program is regarded nationally as one of the toughest — a safe, effective way to allow domestic energy production while protecting the land, air and water.” An interview by the Rockford Squire with DEQ’s Wurfel reads like an ANGA (American Natural Gas Association) commercial, while putting down residents sounding the alarm about the harms of fracking.

Fracking and drilling planned for Genesee, Lapeer, Sanilac, and St. Clair Counties

There are plans for fracking and other drilling activity in Genesee, Lapeer, Sanilac, and St. Clair counties. There are already four “high volume, hydraulically fractured,” frack wells (those using over 100,000 gallons of water per well) in Sanilac County: the Schultz, Walker, State Wheatland & Reinelt, and Van Damme wells, all targeting the A-1 Carbonate formation.  (See current map of DEQ wells).

The State auctioned off state-owned mineral rights to acres throughout the area, with 200 acres auctioned in Genesee county near Holloway Regional Park.  In 2013 land men from Western Land Services combed the area meeting with landowners, buying their mineral rights. Local residents organized in opposition, with Oregon and Richfield Townships in Lapeer County passing resolutions against fracking. And large gas storage fields (like the Porter Ranch, California storage well that is leaking massive amounts of methane) are located in St. Clair County.

The frackers sometimes do purchase municipal water

It’s possible that municipal water from Karegnondi could be used in the future for fracking. The frackers have certainly purchased water from municipalities in the past when groundwater supplies became scare or insufficient. With the Westerman frack well in Kalkaska County the frackers ran out of groundwater, bought public water from the nearby municipality, and when that wasn’t enough for the frack job, resorted to drilling 8 more water wells on site.

The city of Saline, in Washtenaw County, was selling municipal water for oil and gas drilling in 2012 until residents rose up and stopped it, and the city imposed a moratorium on further water sales. As Saline resident and business owner Mitch Rohde, opposing the use of municipal water for drilling, said at the time,

“I can say that my company is here to stay, and isn’t here to suck non-renewal resources out of the ground, profit, and in a locust-like manner move on, leaving a path of industrialization, potential contaminant, property devaluation and other issues while lining up the next small town to feed on.”

The frack industry uses ground water for free. A lot of it.

Water well drilled on the site of the Mancelona 1-28 HD1 horizontal frack well, on state forest land. The frackers use public groundwater for free.

Water well drilled on the site of the Mancelona 1-28 HD1 horizontal frack well, on state forest land. The frackers use public groundwater for free. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.

Generally, though, the frack industry uses ground water from temporary water wells they drill on the site of the well pad (see above photo). If the frack well is on state land, that means the frackers use this publicly-owned resource for free, and use as much as they want. The hokey, much criticized “water withdrawal assessment tool” (WWAT) is used by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as a guise to make it appear they’ve considered the quantity of water being removed from the ground. In fact, it does no such thing, records no cumulative records of how much water is removed from the aquifers below, and studies no impacts.

And when a frack well applicant fails the WWAT, the DEQ staff simply visit the site, and then rubber stamp the approval anyway. One well, which failed the WWAT, used over 21 million gallons of water. (See: Michigan’s 21 Million Gallon Frack Job and Michigan Gas Wells Surpassing All Water Records,  Governor-approved Frack Panel Unconcerned).

The frack industry, if it does all the drilling it wants to, will thirst after Michigan water. One estimate from 2013 was if Encana (now sold to Marathon) drilled the 500 wells they projected, the company would use and destroy 4 billion gallons of groundwater, about what Traverse City uses in two years.

The DEQ keeps this list of the water amounts used by the industry’s recent “high volume hydraulically fractured” wells.

The millions of gallons of fresh water used for fracking are no longer “water” after it is combined with millions of gallons of chemicals, many of them neurotoxins and cancer-causing. These millions of gallons are permanently taken from the water cycle. To frack, the toxic cocktail is injected underground using extreme pressure to break up the rock formation (or in the case of acidizing, dissolve the rock). What comes back out of the well is even worse, and usually radioactive. These liquid wastes (the industry and DEQ like to call this toxic waste “flowback” and “produced water”) are then put into injection wells and again re-injected deep into the earth’s formations, to be buried supposedly forever. But well casings fail, as researchers and industry itself have studied, allowing these toxins to enter and poison aquifers. (See ProPublica’s reporting “Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us.”)

Governor Rick Snyder says “in Michigan we do fracking right”

Governor Snyder said in a televised debate, “in Michigan we do fracking right” and “we work with industry….” And now you know why the DEQ works with industry to contaminate Michigan with toxic chemicals, toxified water, and frack wastes from other states. With the world now watching Michigan’s governor, his emergency manager-based autocracy, his words and actions in the #FlintWaterCrisis, the Detroit Public School takeover, and the frack industry invasion, Michiganders and others are now seeing through this flim flam.

For more information about the harms of fracking and the ballot initiative to ban fracking and frack wastes statewide, see the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s brochure. The Committee is collecting signatures before June 1 to get the ban on fracking and frack wastes on the ballot this November.

Stop the Drilling in Southfield: Residents form group, plan protest

Download PDF

Residents in Southfield and the metro Detroit area have organized to oppose a new drilling application to drill for oil in this Michigan city of over 70,000 people. “Stop the Drilling in Southfield” plans a protest at the drilling site Sunday, January 17 at 9 am. Word of Faith, a “mega church,” owns the property and has leased out its minerals to Jordan Development. The site is at Nine Mile and Evergreen, a densely populated area, only 2 miles from Providence Hospital.

Residents speak out on CBS/WWJ (see video): http://cbsloc.al/1Q2gNf2?anvt=111

The City of Southfield issued a moratorium on all drilling in the city and and it remains in effect through April 28, 2016. See the city’s press release: City of Southfield Oil drilling moratorium.

THE HARMS OF ACIDIZING
Though the company and church claim there will be no fracking, they propose to vertically acidize in the Niagaran formation, which has been horizontally fracked with multiple horizontal bores in Montmorency County (See the Hubbell 2-22 HD1 and Hubbell 2-22 HD2 well). There is no guarantee that this proposed well wouldn’t be used with multiple wellheads and eventually with horizontal well bores.

Acidizing the well uses tons of hydrochloric acid and other chemicals, injected deep underground. Some of the acidizing mixture is then brought back up to the surface, requiring disposal in yet other “injection” wells. The whole process creates millions of gallons of toxic wastes, both liquid and solid, and into the air. Acidizing is terribly polluting and harmful to people’s health and the environment. See this report of the harms of acidizing in populated areas of Los Angeles, California here: “Air Toxics One-Year Report: Oil Companies Used Millions of Pounds of Air-Polluting Chemicals in Los Angeles Basin Neighborhoods.”

Methane would be flared (burned) into the atmosphere. This, too, will pollute the air and harm residents.

COMMENTS TO DEQ NEEDED BY JANUARY 18

We join them in urging Michiganders to write to the DEQ by January 18, 2016 to deny the permit and demand a public hearing. The DEQ says 30 people have written in opposition. The application is A150095. Download the application here: Word of Faith 16-27 Application-2

Write to: DEQ-oilandgaspermitapplication@michigan.gov

Many groups and residents are sending in comments to the DEQ in opposition:

City of Southfield’s resolution against drilling: ResolutionAgainstDrillingandPermit-2

Ban Michigan Fracking’s comments: Kozma to Snow DEQ 1.4.16

Rep. Moss Information and Public Hearing Request

NEW GROUP, “STOP THE DRILLING IN SOUTHFIELD” PLANS PROTEST  THIS SUNDAY, JANUARY 17 at 9 am OUTSIDE WORD OF FAITH CHURCH

To join the protest, meet at 9 am at the NW corner of 9 Mile Road and Evergreen in Southfield. Bring protest signs. Download the groups flyer here: Stop the Drilling in Southfield – final PDF (2).

To reach the group, email stopthedrillinginSouthfield AT gmail.com

They are also on Facebook at Stop the Drilling in Southfield

CBS News covered the story, with Southfield residents Larry Quarles and Skip Davis of  Stop the Driling in Southfield explaining why the proposed well will be harmful to Southfield residents:  “Southfield Residents Speak Out Against Mega Church Plan to Drill for Oil.”

Protest frack waste expansion in Detroit

Download PDF
Protest Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan volunteers, Ban Michigan Fracking, Metro Detroiters for Bernie, and residents in the nearby community from Hamtramck and Detroit around the Detroit US Ecology hazardous waste facility gathered for a protest October 3. Photo: Jim West.

By LuAnne Kozma

Forty-five activists and community members gathered on October 3, 2015 at the US Ecology hazardous waste facility in Detroit to protest expansion of the facility. They included nearby residents from Detroit and Hamtramck, retirees, nurses, professors, lawyers, students, engineers, photographers, teachers, former and current city workers, a Detroit school board member, and retired postal workers.

In addition to Ban Michigan Fracking, the groups Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, Metro Detroiters for Bernie, Carrie Rogge Block Club, Great Lakes Water Protection Committee, Detroit Workers Voice, and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, joined members of a local mosque and volunteers of Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan from around the state.

Protest Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Photo by Jim West.

The Detroit facility, which processes frack wastes, has applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to expand its operations tenfold.

Ban Michigan Fracking has reported on the amount of frack waste coming to Detroit from Pennsylvania for many months (*see below). The Detroit Free Press reported on the expansion on September 11, and the DEQ’s public comment deadline the next day, Saturday, September 12.  BMF wrote public comments to the DEQ, demanding an extension of the public comment period, demanding that DEQ deny the permit, and discussing the harms of radioactive frack wastes and TENORM.

We Demand a Public Hearing by DEQ

IMG_0338

Nearby residents concerned about the frack waste expansion and harm to families. Photo by LuAnne Kozma.

The DEQ granted the extension of the public comment period to October 12, but no public hearing has been planned. BMF encourages people to write DEQ and demand a public hearing. The nearby community and all Michigan residents deserve to be heard. Write comments to: Richard Conforti, MDEQ, at confortir@michigan.gov or by mail c/o DEQ, P.O. Box 30241, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7741.

US Ecology admits liquid wastes are going into the Detroit sewer system; Michigan DEQ denies it

The Detroit Free Press reported on September 11:

In an e-mailed response to Free Press inquiries, US Ecology spokesman David Crumrine said there have been no adverse environmental impacts during the 40 years the plant has operated. The plant takes hazardous and non-hazardous, solid and liquid wastes from the automotive, steel, plating and other area industries, as well as retail wastes, he said. Waste is treated to remove or stabilize its hazards as required by state and federal regulations, and then shipped for disposal at offsite landfills. Liquids are treated until they are safe to dispose of via the Detroit wastewater treatment plant. [emphasis added]

This was startling news, and what BMF had speculated for some time. The company’s admission was proof that wastewater from processing hazardous wastes at the site — 40% of which comes from out of state — goes directly into the public water and sewerage system.

Why else bring out-of-state frack wastes for processing to Detroit? When liquid wastes that are too hot radioactively to be disposed of here — DEQ’s Ken Yale has told BMF that wastes are solidified in Detroit first and then shipped for disposal at US Ecology facilities in Idaho — are brought here on their way west, there’s got to be a practical reason. Why wouldn’t Pennsylvania’s frack wastes be sent directly from Pennsylvania to Idaho?

DEQ’s Conforti denied that US Ecology is putting wastes into the Detroit Water and Sewerage System, as quoted in the Detroit News:  “Nothing will be released into the water supply — Lake Huron or the Detroit River.”

Other groups, such as the American Human Rights Coalition, based in Dearborn, are also opposed to the expansion.  AHRC is raising community awareness and demanding answers to what impact the expansion would have on the Detroit water system.

Dealing with the contaminated and radioactive waste is getting to be a real problem for the fracking/oil and gas industry. According to industry site Fuel Fix: “EPA to block drillers from sending wastewater to municipal treatment plants“:

“In Pennsylvania, drillers are worried about a double whammy — that EPA will follow up its currently proposed zero-discharge rule for municipal treatment plants with another standard blocking them from sending fluids to centralized facilities too.”

Which could pose a problem for facilities like US Ecology.

Speakers at the Protest

Protest Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Local resident Ronnie Mixon, who also spoke at the protest. Photo: Jim West.

* Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog from Beyond Nuclear, gave some background on how harmful radioactivity is to human health.

Elena Herrada, a member of the Detroit School Board told the crowd that the school board passed a resolution that the DEQ deny the permit, in light of harm to Detroit school children.

Dawn DeRose, of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, gave an urgent pitch for volunteers to sign up to get signatures to get the Committee’s ban initiative on the 2016 ballot before the November deadline.

Protest Against Radioactive Fracking Waste

Photo by Jim West.

The signature deadline is in November. The Committee reported in September collecting over 100,000 signatures toward the 252,523 requirement and intends to make it on the ballot. The ballot initiative would ban the processing and storage of frack wastes.

 

 

* In December 2014 we reported on the wastes coming from Pennsylvania to US Ecology in Detroit reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection :

Detroit got the worst of it. Over 1,466 tons of “flowback fracturing sand” went to the US Ecology facility at 6520 Georgia Street, near Hamtramck which is the former Dynecol facility. The Marcellus shale frack wastes came from horizontal frack wells in a host of Pennsylvania counties–Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Fayette, Greene, Indiana and Westmoreland–all in 2011 and 2012, but not reported until 2014. The former Dynecol site, which was a hazardous liquid waste processing facility in operation since 1974 “for the Midwest US and Canadian industrial markets,” is now owned by US Ecology, which bought it in 2012, around the same time the frack wastes were brought to Detroit. The company now carries out a number of hazardous operations with radioactive waste, including, according to the DEQ, processing of radioactive frack wastes which are solidified and then shipped to a facility in Idaho. What parts from that “processing” remain in Detroit? We wish we knew. – See more at: http://banmichiganfracking.org/?m=201412#sthash.qJ2D2iNW.dpuf

Other sources on radioactive wastes and: Rachel Treichler, attorney from New York, has this list of sources, “Materials on Radioactivity in Gas and Gas Drilling Waste.”