Date : Wed, 2 Jun 2010 11:50:15 -0400
For Immediate Release
Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100 June 2, 2010
New Jersey Sierra Club Agrees: The Delaware River is America's Most Threatened River
The Sierra Club agrees with American Rivers' rating of the Upper Delaware River as the most threatened river in the United States. The potential for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale will have a detrimental impact on the environment as a result of the process of fracking and its effect on the water supply. New Jersey is downstream from all the possible pollution that results from fracking in the Upper Delaware, affecting the drinking water for one third of its residents. The state would also see more floods impacting communities from the clearing of tens of thousands of acres of forests for drilling.
What this report shows is that New Jersey needs to lead the fight against Marcellus shale drilling in the Delaware. The Delaware River Basin Commission must pass strict comprehensive rules dealing with Marcellus shale. The Sierra Club applauds the Delaware River Basin Commission for instituting a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale but the moratorium has to be expanded to include exploratory wells as well as drilling wells. This report should be a wakeup call for the political leaders that what happens in the Upper Delaware affects the water supply for the people of New Jersey.
"The lessons of the Gulf show that government must have strict oversight when it comes to drilling as well as preventing drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. If we had major spills of fracking chemicals or other environmental disasters in the Delaware River, it could destroy one of them most beautiful rivers in the country as well as the drinking water for so many people in the state," said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.
All along the Delaware River leases are being sold for natural gas drilling. Drilling in New York and Pennsylvania will have direct impacts on the Delaware River and New Jersey's drinking water. The Delaware River provides drinking water for 15 million people. New Jersey cities like Trenton, Phillipsburg and many South Jersey towns rely on the river for drinking water. New Jersey will also be impacted by the proposed natural gas pipelines from the River Basin through the Highlands region of the state.
Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale involves horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This requires mixing millions of gallons of water with toxic chemicals including volatile organic chemicals like benzene, methyl benzene, formaldehyde, and others that are linked to cancer. The process also releases toxic chemicals like arsenic and mercury that are naturally trapped in the shale.
A spill would lead to dire impacts on the environment and the economy of New Jersey. In addition to the contamination of drinking water, fishing and tourism would be destroyed in the region.
The average well uses 2.5 to 4.5 million gallons of water for fracking, many wells are fracked two to three times. Drilling will require trillions of gallons of water. The destruction of forests and toxic pollution from fracking would directly damage the river and contaminate this critical source for drinking water.
Development of roads to support construction vehicles is a secondary impact of drilling projects. Each well will destroy 15 acres of forest and need a half mile of roadway. There are currently proposals for more than 50,000 wells. This could mean the removal of 750,000 acres of woodlands and 25,000 miles of road. Truck transport of process water and waste fluids will carve through our natural areas. This will fragment the forest inviting in invasive species and altering the ecosystem. In addition, truck transport will result in runoff and pollution of the areas surrounding the roadways.
The DRBC moratorium is a move toward regulating an industry that could potentially destroy the Delaware River. The DRBC must now develop comprehensive rules that look at the overall protection of the important water resources in the Delaware River Basin and prevent the Marcellus Shale drilling from destroying the Basin.
"The moratorium is the first step towards protecting the basin but we need to have strong rules and standards. If the rules are week and the standards aren't there, it undermines everything we are trying to protect and allows for business as usual," Tittel said.
The Sierra Club urges the DRBC to implement strict regulations on the drilling industry in this region. There should not be drilling in critical, environmentally sensitive areas or in headwaters of streams, or in habitats of endangered species. There needs to be stream buffers and limits on disturbance. Wells should be co-located and not put in the middle of forests. The fracking water has to be treated on site and then put through sewer plants for additional treatment. Also, a limit on the amount of fresh water withdrawal should be applied.
"New Jersey's political leaders need to lead the fight against drilling in the upper basin. The economy, drinking water and welfare of the people of New Jersey are at risk. They need to ensure New Jersey is protected. Toxic chemicals and drinking water don't mix, said Tittel.