Were you scared by today’s report about radioactive contamination of Tokyo’s drinking water? Then how do you feel about radioactive gas drilling waste being discharged into rivers that feed drinking water supplies in the U.S.?
It’s happening in Pennsylvania, in broad daylight, as reported in The New York Times. And no one has yet done anything to stop it (though the EPA is finally investigating it).
The toxic wastewater comes from horizontal fracking operations used by gas companies to get at formerly inaccessible gas deposits buried deep within the ground. They send it off to sewage treatment plants that are not required to test for radioactive contaminants — and do not remove them — before discharging the water into rivers. Neither are drinking-water intake plants located downstream required to test for radioactive elements before sending the water on to people’s homes.
How can this be? The gas industry has secured exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other important federal environmental laws. So much of the regulation and policing is left to the states, where underfinancing, understaffing and overly cosy relationships with the industry are compromising public safety.
And not just in Pennsylvania either. Residents in Wyoming, Colorado and Texas, among other places, are also suffering from water contamination and air pollution resulting from fracking.
So, watch out for the big push to gas likely to come in response to Japan’s nuclear disaster. Gas is only preferable to nuclear power if it is regulated properly and produced safely. Currently, neither is the case.