More than 200 attend drill cuttings forum

Mary Perham
Members of the public listen to a presentation on plans to accept Marcellus Shale drill cuttings at Steuben County landfills Monday at the Bath Fire Hall.

More than 200 residents crowded the Bath Volunteer Fire Hall Monday as both sides weighed in on whether the Steuben County landfill should accept Marcellus Shale cuttings from Pennsylvania.

Cuttings are rocks and debris removed to install drill casings into the Marcellus Shale. Sludge and contaminated water left by “hydrofracking” the shale to release natural gas will not be accepted at the county landfill, located on Turnpike Road.

County Public Works Commissioner Vince Spagnoletti said the county’s decision to accept cuttings and “some lubricant” was made after studies showed the debris tested well below federal and state guidelines for safe radiation levels.

However, Marvin Resnikoff, physicist and senior associate at Radioactive Management Associates, said the county looked at tests that were not sensitive enough for some radioactive elements.

 Resnikoff said federal safe levels were lower than the 50 “picocuries” standard the county will use to accept cuttings. He said 15 picocuries is considered safe. A picocurie is a measurement of radioactivity.

Resnikoff warned the county needed to be sure any cuttings were not contaminated by continued use of radioactive water, which could raise the level from current tested levels of 2 picocuries.

Brine has been measured as much as 25 times higher than federal standards, Resnikoff said.

The county will not accept brine, which contains high salt content and other chemicals, and is is used to break apart shale and release natural gas. The salty fluid must be treated at special leach ate treatment plants.

Resnikoff urged the county to conduct spot checks and closely monitor the cuttings as they are brought in.

Both spot checks and monitoring are part of the procedures the county is now considering, Spagnoletti said. Spagnoletti said he also has provided local environmentalists with information about the monitors and procedures.

A number of residents had questions after an hour-long presentation with one man questioning whether the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the resources to check landfill safety.

A woman asked if it was “morally right” to support the drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania. She charged the drilling has destroyed the beauty of the state and said she worried this area will be destroyed, too.

“I worry about that, too,” Spagnoletti said. “We just have to make sure it’s safe.”

Steuben County Public Works Commissioner Vince Spagnoletti speaks at the forum Monday in Bath.