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This isn’t Pennsylvania or Texas, so fracking waste might not seem a front-and-center issue, but some Madison residents are asking town officials to consider a ban so that fracking waste cannot be used and sold in Madison.
Fracking waste, as the name suggests, is a byproduct of fracking, which uses high-pressure water to extract petroleum products from bedrock. While fracking is not practiced in the state, the amount of waste generated at fracking sites often requires the waste to move across state lines either for disposal or repurposing. Due to Connecticut’s proximity to Pennsylvania, a large fracking state, local groups have been looking a ways to ban the liquid waste within this state.
Residents gathered at the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on Dec. 18 to ask the board to consider a ban. Nearly 30 people, armed with petitions from other residents in town, turned up to hear a presentation from Jen Siskind, local coordinator for Food & Water Watch. According to the presentation, if Madison was to pass a local ordinance banning fracking waste, it would be the 35th municipality in the state to do so.
According to the presentation, natural toxins and radioactive radium in oil and gas drilling waste are known to cause cancers, nervous system and organ damage, birth defects, and many other health problems. The State of Connecticut currently has a temporary moratorium, but critics say it is filled with loopholes. State law also mandates the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection to submit regulations for review by next summer, July 1, 2018.
While the members of the BOS seemed to agree that fracking waste in town is a bad idea, they were less clear on a path forward.
“I have spoken with State Senator Ted Kennedy’s office and he is going to come and address the issue from the legislative point of view because he is the Senate chair of the Environment Committee,” said First Selectman Tom Banisch. “I think that our next step should be to hear from him and see what guidance he can offer in terms of what the state is doing and other towns.”
Selectman Bruce Wilson said it is important to understand the big picture before Madison takes any steps forward.
“Where I want to tread gently on all of this is that we don’t do something as a town that is in conflict with what the state is doing,” he said. “The state has many more resources to do this than we do and we are not an island, so we can pass the best thing in the world and if one of our neighbors upstream doesn’t, we are going to be open to sources of pollution that we really have no control over. The other practical issues are how do we stop the transport of materials through the town and even can we?”
Ultimately Wilson said banning fracking waste is a good idea, it just needs to be done thoughtfully.
“I don’t think the town processing or using this type of waste or any type of hazardous waste is a good idea and we shouldn’t be allowing it. The question is how do we get into the habit of policing it if we have to?” he said.
There will be another public information session by Madison Citizens working to ban toxic fracking waste on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. at the E.C. Scranton Memorial library.
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