Senecas call for denial of proposed wastewater treatment facility in potter co. news oleantimesherald.com electricity kwh cost

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In a letter to Pennsylvania DEP officials, Seneca President Todd Gates called for the denial of the plan proposed by Epiphany and the Coudersport (Pa.) Area Municipal Authority that would allow for the transport, treatment and release of thousands of gallons of what he called dangerous wastewater from hydraulic fracturing into the Allegheny.

The Seneca’s Allegany Territory is located 65 miles downstream from the project. The Allegheny flows from its headwaters in Potter County, through McKean County and then up into New York state near Portville. The river flows through Olean and Allegany on its way west to the Seneca territory and Salamanca, then turns south.

“Allowing this plan to move forward would permit poisonous contaminants to travel downstream into New York state and onto the sovereign ancestral lands of the Seneca Nation, which sit upon the Ohi:yo (Allegheny River),” Gates’ letter states. “The Seneca people have a deep spiritual connection with the land and we depend on our natural resources, including native plants, trees, wildlife, fish and water.”

“Our facility will not release any dangerous or contaminated wastewater into the Allegheny River under any circumstances,” he said. “Not only would a release of contaminated wastewater be illegal and irresponsible, but it would also be a direct violation of our company’s mission and purpose as a protector of the environment.”

“The wastewater from your home is more hazardous than Epiphany water,” he said. “The Epiphany System has automated fail-safe mechanisms to prevent any accidents or errors Epiphany has proven technology with thousands of hours of rigorous field testing.”

The plan by Epiphany calls for wastewater created by fracking for natural gas — the practice is not legal in New York state nor authorized on Seneca Nation lands, but is used widely in Pennsylvania — to be transported to the CAMA wastewater plant in Eulalia Township, where the Senecas say the water would be treated and released into the Allegheny system. The proposed treatment facility would discharge up to 42,000 gallons of treated fracking water, with what the Senecas say is insufficient removal of radioactivity, into the river each day, although the plant can process between 20,000-80,000 gallons daily.

Opponents of fracking, citing scientific studies, say water used for fracking in Pennsylvania contains high levels of radioactive material. Earlier this week, a Duke University report indicated that researchers had found high levels of radium in fracking wastewater that was discharged into tributaries and the Allegheny River in Indiana County, Pa.

In his letter, the Seneca president contends that during extreme high water events, which are a regular occurrence in the region, contaminated sediment from the facility will be transported and deposited downstream, ultimately accumulating in the Allegheny Reservoir, which is located in part in Seneca territory.

Further, Gates argues, the proposed treatment facility would be located in a 100-year floodplain. In the event of a flood or spill, thousands of gallons of untreated hazardous and radioactive material stored on-site could be released directly into the Allegheny.

“Epiphany’s facility will cause zero negative effects on the Allegheny River, zero effects on groundwater, and a substantial reduction of overall air emissions,” he said. “Our company plans to invest over $1 million in a new facility that will create jobs, benefit the citizens of Potter County, and will help create a cleaner environment for all of us.”

The Nation is calling on New York state, communities between Eulalia Township and the Nation’s Allegany Territory and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and Army Corps of Engineers to halt the proposed activity.

“There is no proven technology that allows for the complete treatment of wastewater from fracking, particularly in the Marcellus shale region,” he said. “Allowing this project to move forward would be a reckless assault on Mother Earth, the resources of the Ohi:yo, the health of thousands downstream, and future generations.”

Written comments on the planned facility can be sent to Thomas Randis, environmental program manager, at 208 W. Third St., Suite 101, Williamsport, Pa., 17701; or via email at RA-EPNCEPIPHANY@pa.gov. Those with questions about the permitting process can contact Randis at 570-327-0530.