Marvin Resnikoff, a physicist and former professor from University at Buffalo, gave a talk yesterday evening in Old Union Hall about hyrdaulic fracturing. He focused on a sometimes less-often-discussed aspect of fracking, which is that it can produce radioactive byproducts that enter into the earth and public drinking water supplies.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a drilling process that releases natural gas from subsurface rock formations by drilling into the ground and pumping water and chemicals down to fracture the bedrock and release the gas.
About 100 people, including members of Binghamton University and the local community, attended the talk.
Resnikoff’s presentation included a short slide show with various pictures detailing measurements of the Marcellus Shale — a formation of rock that stretches beneath New York’s Southern Tier and several other states that contains one of the country’s largest deposits of natural gas — and graphs depicting varying amounts of radioactivity caused by different fracking wells across New York. A question-and-answer session followed his presentation.
Thousands of documents obtained this year by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show a fracking well can produce more than a million gallons of waste water, which often contains highly corrosive salts, carcinogens, radioactive elements and the chemicals used in the process.
Resnikoff said he wants to inform people more about fracking because of the dangers it has on human health.
“I hope to help educate some of the residents and people who are fighting in the surrounding neighborhoods near this fracking,” Resnikoff said. “This topic is important because it relates to health, and the effects of radioactivity on health and the potential causes for cancer.”
Elaine Perkus of New York Residents Against Drilling (NYRAD) and James Little, an activist from Endicott, helped organize the event.
“These pressing critical issues we’re being faced with may have a very powerful impact,” Perkus said. “It’s important to get people educated and aware of this problem associated with the fracking practice.”
Perkus said she believes Binghamton University is a good location for this sort of forum to be held.
“This is an educational event,” Perkus said. “I thought it’d be great for students to be aware of this, as well as the professors and public at large.”
Little said he also thought students should be aware of fracking and its consequences.
“This is their future, their youth, their health and the youth activists are very influential,” Little said. “I am concerned about the youth and the community. Education [about] radioactivity will keep the people safe and put political pressure on lawmakers to keep everyone safe.”
Little also said that he is concerned that fracking could soon become a reality in New York state.
“I am concerned about the environment and about the new industries coming about,” he said. “They are all involved in helping to make suggestions [for regulating fracking]. The main exposure to radioactivity is in the water, the drinking water. In 10 to 15 years, the radioactivity can cause cancer, especially in kids.”
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), NYRAD and SUNY Vines, a campus-wide organization that works to harvest vegetables and plant gardens on campus, all worked together to help coordinate the event.
Dane Jackson, an intern for NYPIRG and a junior majoring in political science, said NYPIRG and other organizations are collaborating to help spread awareness about fracking in the local community.
“We are working with SUNY Vines and community partner NYRAD to host this forum to educate students and community members of the negative impacts fracking could have on our region,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he thought many would find the lecture’s information surprising.
“We expect that they will be upset with the fact that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not adequately looked at and addressed the issue of radioactivity in fracking waste,” Jackson said. “We also hope that they will want to take action and submit a public comment to the DEC demanding that they create a plan to deal with the radioactive waste.”
Resnikoff encouraged the audience to petition the state to prevent fracking from happening.
“Right now is the time to state your demands and get the most done,” Resnikoff said. “You must put your pressure on DEC.”