White Plains, NY – The Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimously approved legislation today that bans the sale, application and disposal in the county of waste from natural gas drilling operations commonly known as hydrofracking. Penalties for violations, which are unclassified misdemeanors, will include fines upwards to $25,000 and / or imprisonment up to 30 days.
The bill received prior approvals in two BOL committees—Government Operations, chaired by Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), who was a co-sponsor; and Legislation, chaired by Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains). At the conclusion of today’s full BOL vote on the bill, which occurred at its regular meeting, a large crowd of supporters of the hydrofracking waste ban in Westchester, many of whom spoke in favor of the legislation, broke into long applause.
“This legislation will protect our environment for Westchester residents both today and in the future,” said Borgia. “The toxins involved in hydrofracking waste, including radioactive materials, are among the most harmful known to humankind. We must be hyper-vigilant about keeping these toxins out of the water supply and off our roadways, and I’m very pleased that all of my colleagues on the Board supported these protections.”
The various waste products from natural gas drilling, or hydraulic fracturing, include water laden with chemical additives, naturally occurring radioactive materials and heavy metals, along with leachate from solid wastes. The new legislation specifically prohibits the introduction of hydrofracking waste into wastewater treatment and sewage treatment facilities within Westchester or operated by the County; the sale of such waste within the County; and the application of natural gas waste to any roadway or property (usually as a means to control ice and dust) within the County. (Municipalities may unknowingly use de-icing salt produced from hydrofracking waste during the winter months.)
Furthermore, all bids and contracts related to the purchase or acquisition of materials to be used to construct or maintain a County road shall include a provision stating no materials containing fracking waste shall be provided to the County.
“As hydrofracking increases around the Northeast, gas companies will look for different ways in which to dispose of all the toxic waste that results from the extracting process,” said Ryan. “The legislation passed by the Board today warns natural gas extractors that Westchester will not be a dumping site for this hazardous waste.”
“The multiple kinds of waste produced by hydrofracking all pose significant health and environmental risks,” said BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah), another co-sponsor of the bill. “This waste doesn’t belong in our wastewater treatment plants, and it certainly doesn’t belong on the streets and roads that drain into our fragile drinking water supplies.”
Ellen Weininger, Educational Outreach Coordinator for Grassroots Environmental Education, a science-based environmental health non-profit organization, thanked the Westchester legislators today for their vote, and said, “We appreciate the close attention the Westchester legislators paid to this new law, and the expediting of its passage. The legislators have demonstrated a deep and unwavering commitment to protecting the public health of Westchester residents and safeguarding the environment for future generations.”