He also warned of natural gas companies purchasing property by the lake so they can take water from it and transport it elsewhere.
He said some municipalities have already accepted lucrative offers from natural gas companies to take in various types of radioactive drilling waste to their landfills or for processing at their wastewater treatment plants. Many of the shale formations contain naturally occurring radioactive material, and contamination levels vary from each well.
“The findings of professionals are there’s not a single sewage treatment plant in the state that can accept fracking fluid and clean it out successfully,” Mathewson said.
Pennsylvania recently started studying the radioactivity of Marcellus fracking waste, and Mathewson warned the Town Board at last week’s monthly meeting about brine, or rock cuttings and drilling mud from Marcellus drill wells, which are thought to contain high levels of radium isotopes.
Mathewson said there are communities in New York now that are buying this waste to treat roads in the winter, as a replacement for salt and chemicals, which can be damaging for the lake.
“But the problem is the brine waste can seep into the ground and into the aquifers, and the aquifers basically run into the adjoining lakes, and it can then basically contaminate the lake,” Mathewson said.
According to www.riverkeeper.org, the brine is allowed in New York to be spread on roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization purposes.
A state-wide moratorium was placed on fracking in 2008 so officials could study its effects, and that moratorium remains, but in the years since many municipalities have passed moratoriums or bans on the practice. Those laws have been challenged in court, but on June 30, the state’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals, ruled in a 5-2 decision that local municipalities have the right to pass such moratoriums or bans on shale gas development using hydraulic fracturing, and related operations.
The Court of Appeals had accepted two cases after lower courts upheld bans in two towns — Dryden in Tompkins County and Middlefield in Otsego County.
“That case sets up the guidelines or the protocol for a town to consider and basically, if they want, ban fracking or any type of related activity,” Mathewson said.
Lake George Citizen’s Group’s spokeswoman Joanne Gavin said it makes sense for the town to consider the issue now while it’s in the process of reviewing its comprehensive plan.
“For a lot of communities, if it hasn’t gone through the comprehensive plan and become part of the zoning laws, those communities are susceptible to this back door being open because they’re not prepared,” Gavin said, adding that the recent court decision also prompted her to revisit the issue.
She said she’d like to see Warren County consider a county-level moratorium as well.
“We, as a community, can be at the leading edge of informing other communities and pushing for these laws to be passed,” she said.
Supervisor Dennis Dickinson thanked Mathewson for the presentation and said the Town Board will consider it.