Plans to ship fracking waste on Ohio River barges is on hold while federal officials investigate whether the brine can be safely transported as river cargo without fear of being a pollution threat.
A Grapevine, Texas-based company, GreenHunter Water, has already bought and refurbished liquid storage tanks at a terminal on the Ohio River that will serve as a transfer point for fracking waste from Pennsylvania to be carried by truck to three disposal wells in Ohio, reports the Columbus Dispatch
But U.S. Coast Guard officials say they want to make a final decision "that's been thoroughly studied" before the disposal process proceeds because materials contained in the waste aren't yet documented and listed on Coast Guard transportation charts.
Fracking, a process that pumps millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals underground to break apart shale, is used by drillers to free trapped natural gas. The waste brine that comes back to the surface contains fracking chemicals, high amounts of salt, naturally occurring radium, and other metals.
Although much of the waste is injected back into ground, a lot of surplus remains behind and has to be transported to disposal sites. Some states, including Pennsylvania, bar sewage-treatment plants from taking the waste and dumping it into stream. As a result, more waste is being transported to Ohio, where state regulators oversee nearly 179 fracking disposal wells, according to the Dispatch.
Environmental advocates worry that a barge carrying the waste could wreck and break apart, contaminating the Ohio River, which serves as a drinking water source for some communities along its shores.
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