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Earth Science

Sewage Plants Struggle To Treat Fracking Wastewater 264

MTorrice writes "When energy companies extract natural gas trapped deep underground using hydraulic fracturing, they're left with water containing high levels of pollutants, including benzene and barium. Sometimes the gas producers dispose of this fracking wastewater by sending it to treatment plants that deal with sewage and water from other industrial sources. But a new study (abstract) suggests that the plants can't handle this water's high levels of contaminants: Water flowing out of the plants into the environment still has elevated levels of the chemicals from natural gas production."
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Sewage Plants Struggle To Treat Fracking Wastewater

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  • by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @03:45PM (#43216589)

    How to be successful:
    * Socialize the risks
    * Privatize the profits

    Even commercial car washes have limits on pollutants they pass forward to water treatment plants. I guess someone just conveniently forgot to include these energy companies.

  • by Eugriped3z ( 1549589 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @03:48PM (#43216645)

    So that simple-minded corporations won't confuse themselves wondering if it might be cheaper to risk getting caught.

    There's no excuse for allowing energy companies, some of the most profitable in existence to off-load (externalize) the cost of their operations and subsidize their profits by burdening public utilities with the clean up expense, especially when those facilities were never intended to deal with substances like those used in the 'proprietary mixtures' that fracking companies have protected from the prying eyes of the public.

    Setting standards that require these morons to clean up their own mess, and attaching penalties for failure that put violartors out of business is the only thing U.S. corporations understand.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:00PM (#43216775)

    Or make them put it in deep injection wells like we do in Ohio, it's probably the ONLY part of Ohio's approach I agree with (does not apply in geologically active areas since it can set off earthquakes).

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:04PM (#43216823) Homepage
    The only problem is idiots that don't want to use it responsibly. Fracking makes energy cheaply. That's a good idea.

    The problem is it has clear environmental risks that the frackers don't want to discuss.

    They don't want to tell you what they put into the ground (because they are afraid people will sue them - or steal their wonderful business secrets).

    Being in business means you get sued. Deal with it. As for business secrets - ever hear of patents????

    The truth is that Frackers are having problems not because the technology they use is more dangerous than other tech, but because they are so damn greedy they want to do so without taking reasonable safety and anti-pollution precautions. Let's be honest here - the EPA is not know for being a hard-ass. They let people get away with amazingly evil misdeeds before they take action.

    I am all in favor of fracking - if they publicly reveal everything they pump into the ground and take reasonable steps to ameliorate the problems.

    Yes this will cost more. But fracking will still be cheap. We have a right to cheap CLEAN energy, not just cheap energy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:05PM (#43216831)

    "does not apply in geologically active areas since it can set off earthquakes"

    Like where the majority of the oil is?

    Thanks for the help.

  • by sribe ( 304414 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:14PM (#43216937)

    Fines don't do it. Jailtime for CEOs would. My rule of thumb- any crime bad enough to be fined a 100K dollars should include 6 months of jailtime for a CxO or the president of the board of directors. For every 100K after that, add 6 months for another of them. No parole. THAT would get companies to clean up their act.

    No, it would merely limit fines actually imposed to $99,999.99 ;-)

  • by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:21PM (#43217049)

    Then the government could claim Eminent Domain to take the waterways away and give them to the power companies. Everybody (with enough money to buy politicians) wins!

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:27PM (#43217131)

    There shouldn't be any "public property", it's an oxymoron, but if there is such a thing, then nobody should be allowed to profit from it, to do business and use it for business.

    You have a strangely restrictive idea of who should be allowed to have property rights. If the duly elected representatives of the people determine that is prudent to, for example, build a highway, why should they not be able to purchase the land on which to build it and to operate the highway as the think best for their constituents? You see, if the road were privatized, there is a strong possibility that the highway would never be built at all, and that the owner would seek to maximize his own profit rather than promote the welfare of the general population.

    The idea of public property has existed since at least Roman times. To eliminate public property is as much a fantasy as to eliminate private property, and equally misguided.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:31PM (#43217167) Homepage Journal

    The real answer is to fill the CEO's swimming pool with it. If it fills up, fill the bathtub, kitchen sink, etc finally, just water his lawn with the rest.

    I'll bet if we implemented a lottery system where that would happen at random, that water would be sparkling clean coming out of the plants no matter what the cost.

  • by Comrade Ogilvy ( 1719488 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @04:57PM (#43217481)

    1. Form corporation named Timebomb.
    2. Timebomb buys land
    3. Timebomb "stores" pollutants in a manner that is safe for a whopping 10 years, charging tiny fees to mother corporation
    4. Neighbors see coming disaster (maybe), but efforts gets tied up in courts
    5. Mother corporation sloughs off Timebomb as independent legal entity
    6. Timebomb poisons the water tables
    7. Timebomb dies, and its only assets are poisoned land (which has negative value once it is a proven hazard)

    Isn't it awesome how property rights solve all problems?

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @06:15PM (#43218341) Journal
    It seems a lot of American's have been conned into thinking "free market" means a market that is free from government oversight, it's not hard to work out that this mis-information is pushed by some corporations. What I can't work out is why so many people defend the premise.

    What the "free" in free market actually means is "everyone is free to participate", excluding corporations would by definition make it a restricted market. Also an economic "market" is not a mall or an auction room, it's a set of rules governing trade, for example a market cannot exist without property rights. If government does not define and enforce those rules, then who will?

    As to the OP, yes, one possible solution to the "tragedy of the commons" would be to privatize the commons, the problem with that is even if it worked ( in an environmental sense), the people would still lose their commons.
  • by BonemanPgh ( 2370264 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @06:35PM (#43218465)
    Every single thing we do has environmental consequences. It is a question of risks, rewards, and tradeoffs. Due to the rather large amount of free media coverage given towards fracking opponents, the industry has been quite responsive to just about every tax/requirement that has been enacted - many times complying with new regulations before they are imposed. I've also heard of cases where the drillers have improved local infrastructure to better than pre-drilling condition. I am not suggesting they are angels by any means. They are engaged in PR war. They need to conform anyway - conforming early gets points. Restoring to better than original gets points. Our media will spend HOURS discussing the Gasland flammable water video FOR FREE - and barely ANY time talking about how the water there was flammable long before fracking was even invented. To refute that one false claim costs the fracking industry tons of PR dollars. And Parent is wrong here - the Frackers most certainly take safety and environmental issues seriously - one mistake will fry them in the media - the PR costs to fix it would exceed the costs to deal with the environmental issue. Sure, there are accidents - but not the industry wide reckless disregard for the environment that coal mining (both underground and strip) caused in their early days - and hell, even now. For power generation, I'm liking fracking for natural gas (given the known environmental risks) over that of the coal industry. The human and environmental costs of mining alone is provably worse than fracking. When it comes to burning each for power, gas winds with no question. I'd rather have some modern nuclear plants over either option, but geez, the only 'today' alternative to high energy costs or fracking is coal. And coal sucks.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill