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4. How is the waste stored or disposed of?Submitted by MikeChalberg on Tue, 2012-05-01 10:30
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This is one of the more controversial aspects of the fracking procedure. Fracking companies have two options when it comes to dealing with wastewater, or, brine: store the waste (the left-over chemical solution used to split the rock) in underground reservoirs, or bring it back to the surface and dispose of it aboveground.
Wastewater storage is currently under investigation by the EPA and is already heavily regulated. For instance, an above-ground storage facility must have capacity of at least 1,320 gallons. An underground storage facility must be at least 42,000 gallons.
Underground storage is becoming more popular. After years of polluting local streams, rivers, and lakes, gas companies are now forced to properly dispose of the wastewater. The wastewater is extremely difficult to treat adequately, so long-term storage is often the easier route. These underground chambers can be well over a mile deep. One plant in Ohio, opened in 2011, hopes to be at the forefront of a new, lucrative industry. Given the increasing amount of fracking, brine storage could become a blossoming business. Indeed, off-site and out of state garbage dumping has been a profitable business for years, albeit not usually popular with the local population.
Underground storage of toxic waste has been a common practice for decades. The most common form of disposal for nuclear waste has long been underground disposal. Sewage is of course commonly stored underground, although generally not for long periods of time. Some sites around the country have accumulated millions of barrels of waste over the last several decades. These wells are not intended to last forever. Thus far, there have been no significant leakages detected. But some are concerned about problems arising in the long-term.
Natural gas companies must also collect and store any air pollutants produced during the process, most notably benzene. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), any "hazardous air pollutants" (HAP) must be captured and broken down. The Occupation Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as certain regulations for storage and disposal of potentially harmful waste.