Suffolk bill aims to protect aquifers by banning fracking waste

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The sale and use of liquid waste from hydraulic fracturing will be banned in Suffolk County under an aquifer-protection bill expected to be signed by the county executive this month.

The legislation, sponsored by Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), is aimed at the byproducts of the hydraulic fracturing process, used to extract natural gas from rock formations using chemicals, water and pressure. The bill passed unanimously at the legislature's April 29 meeting.

New York has not issued rules on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, so the procedure is not currently performed in the state. But it is done in other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania.

Spencer's legislation bans the sale of fracking byproducts within the county. It also prohibits the wastewater from being processed in any sewage-treatment plants in the county and keeps the waste from being used as a brine on roads and property.

Violations carry a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and 30 days in jail.

Spencer said the aim is to protect the environment -- in particular the aquifer that serves as the area's sole source of drinking water -- from contaminants.

"Whether you agree or disagree with fracking, we realize here in Suffolk County it's too much of a critical issue because of our aquifer," Spencer said.

Wastewater from fracking can contain "fluid additives, metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials," in addition to solids, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently studying impacts on groundwater and drinking water.

The legislation was co-sponsored by legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), Sarah S. Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Jay H. Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

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County Executive Steve Bellone will sign the legislation, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Fracking wastewater already is banned from county treatment facilities in both Nassau and Suffolk, but the new legislation puts Suffolk ahead in terms of environmental protection, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"It closes all the loopholes to strongly defend Suffolk County from this type of contamination," she said.

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