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Anya Tikka | Democrat

Hydrogeologist Paul A. Rubin, standing at right, asks questions of DRBC representative William Muszynski, standing far left, about his agency’s new draft regulations on gas dilling. UDC representative Fred Peckham of the Town of Hancock, standing second from left, moderated the question-and-answer period.

DRBC gets quizzed

By Anya Tikka
NARROWSBURG — February 18, 2011 — Last Thursday, Upper Delaware Council (UDC) members put some tough questions to Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) William Muszynski over his agency’s new draft regulations concerning natural gas drilling.
The presentation and meeting was held in the Town of Tusten Town Hall. About 60 people attended, but only UDC members were allowed to pose questions. The UDC is drafting an official letter in response to the DRBC regulations and members felt they needed more info about the complex topic.
Muszynski, manager of the Water Resources Management Branch, said the DRBC had formulated a one-stop process, enabling everyone to go to one place to see what’s necessary to permit drilling, including water withdrawal, monitoring, and wastewater treatment permits. According to the presentation, the main concerns of the Commission are:
1. Water Withdrawals, Use, and Tracking
2. Well Pads and Ancillary Infrastructure
3. Wastewater Tracking and Disposal
The DRBC was created to specially safeguard the purity of the Delaware River Basin groundwater, said Muszynski, continuing that much of the non-tidal Delaware River is Special Protection Waters, and also Federal Wild and Scenic Recreation Area requiring very stringent permits and federal oversight.
Continuing gas drilling in the region seems to be a given, in spite of the federal EPA testing program on the effects of possibly dangerous chemicals and hydrofracturing of bedrock may have on groundwater that’s still in progress. Muszynsky said DRBC projects there are going to be 15-18,000 horizontal wells in Marcellus Shale over the next 10 years. The outline the new plan is available on
UDC members voiced their concerns.
“Have you considered the scenic factor in the setbacks sufficiently?” asked Highland Supervisor Andy Boyar. “[A] 500-foot setback from the river doesn’t seem scenic.”
“We think so,” said Muszynski.
UDC Senior Resource Specialist David Soete said, “This is a static picture. What goes down has a build up,” indicating concern about the lack of info about the long term effects of the fracking on environment. Muszynski admitted wastewater flow back is an estimated 40%, which has to be either reused or treated. There was no comment over the water that stays in the ground.
Another member asked about the use of diesel and the composition of the reportedly dangerous chemicals used in gas drilling. Muszynski said diesel is not used anymore. Recently, the EPA has asked for voluntary disclosure of chemicals.
The townships of Highland, Tusten and Lumberland had brought along an expert, hydrogeologist Paul A. Rubin of Hydroquest in Stone Ridge, NY, to ask questions
“The scope of this is enormous. Have you concluded the whole analysis before these regulations?” wondered Rubin.
”If more money was available for more studies, we would do them,” said Muszynski.
According to Muszynski, the drillers cannot bring hazardous material to the well sites.
“How is the process of wastewater disposal monitored?” asked Rubin and other members.
“All wastewater has to go to a DRBC-approved facility. The effluent has to go from A to B safely,” replied Muszynski.
After another question from a UDC member about how the system was enforced in case the companies didn’t stick to the rules, Muszynski said it’s a standard Hazmat federal program in use all over the country, drawing laughter from the obviously skeptical audience.
If any company was found in violation of the rules, they would have to be reported to each state’s law enforcement system through the courts, said Muszynski. The states that are part of the DRBC are New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Rubin went on to ask, “How is the monitoring done for safety? In the worst case scenario, e.g. earthquakes, what is the plan?”
Muszynski’s reply was again that it was a concern for the states, an answer he gave to every question put to him about how to oversee or monitor any of the processes, although water testing spots are going to be put in place by the DRBC.
Both the source of water for fracking, and disposal of the wastewater are of major concern in the process. Each well will use an estimated 5 million gallons, according to the presentation.
The new DRBC draft regulations plan outlines a streamlined process, where areas are bundled together and any area with over five wells is required to obtain a Natural Gas Development Plan approval, including setbacks, area covered, infrastructure, public notice procedures before gas drillers come to the area, area maps, landscape maps, five-year projection plan for the area, variance, slope, infrastructure etc.”

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