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EPA wants to let frackers dump chemical-laden water into rivers

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

Sarah Okeson

Trump’s EPA is trying to take our nation back to the 1920s when polluted water from drilling oil was dumped on more than 2,000 acres in west Texas, creating the Texon scar, contaminated land so barren almost a century later that it can be identified from space.

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The EPA recently released the draft of a study of options to dispose of “produced water” from drilling for gas and oil that could include irrigation and discharging it into rivers and streams.

“Revolutionary ideas are needed to ensure (water) demand can be balanced in the future,” said Tom Blaine, the former state engineer for New Mexico which generated 37.8 billion gallons of produced water in 2017.

The water, sometimes 10 times saltier than seawater and laced with chemicals such as ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze, traditionally has been injected underground, but that practice has been linked to hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma and other oil-producing states in the last decade.

Fracking can produce as much as 10 gallons of water for every gallon of oil. The amount of wastewater new wells produce during their first year has increased by up to 1,440%.

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In 2016, the EPA banned public sewage plants from accepting wastewater from fracking, but the EPA later extended the deadline for complying until August. The water was so corrosive it was damaging factory machinery downstream. People living near the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania were advised to drink bottled water.

At least 11 private waste treatment facilities accept waste from drilling for oil and gas and discharge wastewater. In 2012, just 5% of produced water was discharged to rivers and streams.

The EPA identified 692 different ingredients used in fracking that can end up in produced water, including acids, gels and sand. The water can also be radioactive. Little research has been done about treating waste from drilling for oil and gas, and there are no federal regulations about the radioactive waste produced by drilling for oil.

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“The science does not yet exist to say it’s clean enough to release into rivers and streams or to use for crop irrigation or other purposes,” said Mark Brownstein, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

In Kentucky, 1,900 tons of radioactive sludge from produced water was illegally dumped in a landfill near the Kentucky River. The EPA has said it won’t strengthen regulations on waste produced by drilling for oil and gas.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump’s Labor Department wants to ‘weaponize’ right-wing discrimination and bigotry

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How Moscow Mitch won a new Russian plant in his home state of Kentucky

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Critics of a Kremlin-linked industrial giant investing $200 million in a new aluminum plant in Kentucky gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. Pointing to Moscow’s use of economic leverage to sway European politics, they warn the deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America, one that exploits the U.S. free-market system instead of its elections. What worries national-security experts is not that any of the businessmen who put the deal together broke any laws. It’s that they didn’t. A Time magazine investigation found that the Russian aluminum company, Rusal, used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight sanctions the U.S. had placed on Russian businesses, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process. To free itself from sanctions, Rusal fielded a team of high-paid lobbyists for an intense, months-long effort in Washington. One of the targets was Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who helped thwart a bipartisan push to keep the sanctions in place. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, one of Rusal’s longtime major shareholders contributed more than $1 million through his companies to a GOP campaign fund tied to McConnell.

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