Friday, February 12, 2010

Superbowl Sunday: Pulteney 400* - Chesapeake 0

On Superbowl Sunday close to 400* people crowded into the Pulteney Fire Hall to protest Chesapeake’s plans for converting a natural gas well into a disposal well for frackwater and brine. People vied for leaning-space against the wall and unlucky late-comers lined up four-deep in the lobby, just beyond the notice warning “maximum occupancy 278 persons”.

They were there for a two-hour forum on fracking, geology, and disposal wells. And it was pretty clear that no one was in favor of becoming the dumping site for Marcellus frackwater and brine.

It took a few days but Chesapeake finally responded. In a one-line e-mail to the Corning Leader, Matt Sheppard, Chesapeake’s senior director of corporate development wrote, “Our enhanced water re-use techniques have greatly diminished the need for us to dispose of produced water, therefore, we have no intention of pursuing the injection well in Pulteney, N.Y."

Sounds great until you realize that Chesapeake has not said they will withdraw their application for an underground injection well. So it's still on the table.....

At issue: conversion of a natural gas well into a disposal well for Chesapeake to dump wastewater from their Marcellus and other gas wells in NY and PA. The well in question is the Bergstresser well, drilled 6700 feet into the Trenton-Black River formation about 13 years ago. It's not producing natural gas anymore, but it is deep enough that it would make an ideal place for disposal of brine and frack water.

Only one problem: the good people of Pulteney, NY don't want it. The tiny town of Pulteney overlooks the most western shore of Keuka Lake; it's a scenic area best known for its wineries and summer tourists. And as far as the residents are concerned, the heart of wine country is not a good place for toxic waste disposal.

Not only that, the county road is twisty and turny and steep in places. The folks who drive those roads are concerned that the increased truck traffic will damage their roads. If Chesapeake's numbers are any indication, there will be plenty of trucks traveling the rural roads. 

According to their application, Chesapeake plans to inject up to 181,440 gallons of wastewater a day into the well. They haven't done any actual testing - but are basing this figure on data from injection wells in other locations.

Given that the average brine-tankers hold close to 5,000 gallons, that means 35 or more trucks will drive the country roads hauling that wastewater -  70 truck trips in and out of the disposal facility every day for the next ten years. 

But wait! There's more! To handle that amount of wastewater, Chesapeake plans to build six concrete unloading bays. Trucks will dock at the bays and pump wastewater into one of six 1,000-barrel (42,000 gallon) above-ground storage tanks. Pipes will connect the tanks to a filtration vessel, and from there the wastewater will be pumped into the injection well.

In addition, Chesapeake noted that they may need to add corrosion inhibitors and biocides to the wastewater. So they will store chemicals on site as well. But if Chesapeake hopes to drive those trucks up Route 76 to Pulteney, they'll have a few roadblocks.

One of those roadblocks is junior Congressman Eric Massa who expressed outrage at the idea of placing a drilling wastewater disposal well so close to a lake. They're not going to frack wells in the NYC watershed, Massa said. "What does NYC have that we don't?"

Massa promised to do everything in his power to stop the project. Including, he said, laying down on the road in front of the trucks.

For now it looks like Massa won't need to get his suitcoat dirty, though, because Chesapeake seems to be cowed by the intensity of the protest against the project. At least for now, the folks of Pulteney are the winning team.

* as of 2/12/2010: organizers of the event estimate there may have been as many as 540 at the Fire Hall last Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. The video from Sunday's meeting at the Pulteney Firehouse is now on-line