By MIREYA NAVARRO May 3, 2012
Vexed by declining revenue, officials of the Niagara Falls water utility seized on a new moneymaking idea last year: treat toxic waste from natural-gas drilling at its sewage-treatment plant once hydrofracking gets under way in New York State.
Accepting the waste would both offset the drop in revenue and help keep water rates down for customers in the economically strapped region, they reasoned.
But the thought of having fracking fluids trucked into the city, treated and discharged into the Niagara River frightened local residents, many of whom still recall the Love Canal environmental crisis of the 1970s. In a unanimous vote, the Niagara Falls City Council blocked the plan this spring by banning the treatment, transport, storage and disposal of drilling fluids within city limits.
“We’re not going to deal with this again — a chemical disaster,” said the council chairman, Samuel Fruscione.
As New York State environmental regulators fine-tune proposed rules governing horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial natural-gas extraction process, wastewater has emerged as a challenging issue for the industry and regulators.
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