Don’t Worry About the Fracking Water

Fracking - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Rumors of fracking risks are greatly exaggerated and the New York Times, albeit unintentionally, proves it with another of its hit pieces. 

I never read the New York Times unless someone points something out to me I must read for the sake of business. It’s little more than a “supermarket tabloid for the wealthy” and its condescending attitude toward anything west of the Hudson River is just too much for me. Plus, it has published dozens of heavily biased anti-fracking pieces, some of which couldn’t even pass the smell test of their own ombudsman. Last night, a friend, who does read the Times, called my attention to yet another of its hit pieces, this time in regard to supposed impacts on New York City’s water supply. It’s a virtual litany of accusations from another one of their “investigations.” Here are some of what we’re up against:

“The Times took samples from 14 drinking water sources. Samples from eight came back indicating that the water is not fit for human consumption, according to state and federal standards.”

“Another potential concern is the use of an epoxy, which is not approved for use in drinking water.”

“Regulations governing water sources are rarely enforced”

“Health officials insist that the water sources are safe, and that the laws governing them are adequate.”

“Surveys suggest that nearly 60 percent of the companies do not comply. And the state has done little to make them.”

“Yet as vital as these reservoirs are to the city’s water supply, oversight is virtually nonexistent.”

How do you fight this stuff? One can only imagine what Josh Fox will do with this.

If you haven’t already figured it out, the Times story wasn’t about fracking or its impact on city water supplies but, rather, the condition of water tanks on top of various city buildings; tanks supplying water city residents are drinking every day. I modified the quotes very slightly to illustrate a key point. Simply put, the risk to city drinking water from fracking is numerous orders of magnitude below the risks of drinking water above the heads of many New Yorkers.

Fracking - NYC Water Tanks

New York City Water Tanks

Be sure to also watch the video embedded in the story to get a fuller perspective on the issue. Here are some of the most interesting aspects of the story:

Samplings taken by The New York Times from water towers at 12 buildings in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn found E. coli in five tanks, and coliform in those tanks and three more. Coliform by itself is not harmful, but does indicate that conditions are ripe for the growth of potentially dangerous microorganisms.

City health officials insist that the tanks are safe, and that the laws governing them are adequate.

The city’s own surveys suggest that nearly 60 percent of the owners do not comply. And the city has done little to make them.

Yet as vital as these vessels are to the city’s water supply, oversight is virtually nonexistent.

Building owners are not required to submit proof to the city that cleanings and inspections have been conducted, as they do for elevator and boiler inspections. Until recently, they did not have to provide evidence of the inspections to their tenants.

City health and buildings officials cannot even say for sure how many water tanks are in use. Estimates range from 12,000 to 17,000, based on the inventory of buildings that stand seven stories or taller.

Asked if neglecting to clean and inspect the tanks could have negative health consequences, Dan Kass, the health department’s deputy commissioner for environmental health, said, “We don’t have any evidence that there is.”

Another potential concern is the use of an epoxy called Sea Goin’ Poxy Putty, which is not approved for use in drinking water, a violation of the city’s health code. The epoxy, a bisphenol A-based polymer formulated in the 1950s to repair ship hulls underwater, is used to caulk leaks in the wood tanks.

Tank cleaning companies have an inventory of stories about finding dead birds, mice and animal droppings. One cleaner discovered a homeless person living in the attic space between a tank cover and the roof.

The Times took samples from 14 drinking water tanks in 12 buildings. Samples from eight of the tanks came back with positive results for total coliform. Five of those also came back positive for E. coli. A positive result for either sample means that the water is not fit for human consumption, according to state and federal standards.

In each of the instances, the tanks were cleaned after the sampling and retested by cleaning companies, which then reported negative results.

Each sample was taken near the bottom of the tank — where sediment builds up and bacteria and viruses are more likely to thrive — but below the spigot that feeds the buildings’ faucets.

Still, Dr. Edberg said, “The problem is that if any part of the tank gets contaminated, all of it is contaminated.”

The health department said the methodology used and the conclusions drawn by The Times were flawed. The department said The Times had used non-sterilized equipment and had not followed suggested testing protocols. But with the exception of three of the positive samples, in which The Times took the sample during the cleaning, The Times followed the protocols exactly as recommended.

The new law required the health department to conduct three surveys, checking the inspection records of 100 randomly chosen buildings each year from 2010 through 2012.

The results were not encouraging. No more than 42 percent of the buildings surveyed each year could provide proof of a bacteriological test. Of those buildings that could provide proof, all were found to be free of contamination, though the samplings were typically done after the tanks were cleaned, which is allowed. But even among these buildings, most failed to post their inspection notices, and most could not provide proof that they had performed an inspection in each of the previous five years, as city law also requires.

More than $700,000 in fines was levied against the buildings in the survey. Despite the findings, the health department said it had no plans to expand enforcement of the laws, though it said it would continue to do annual surveys.

Now, if you’re a city resident, we have to ask, “who you gonna believe?” The New York Times is the last word, so this threat just has to be real. There is simply no other possibility. Moreover, the immediate threat from the drinking water above your head, pales by comparison with the threat of pollution from fracking, which has yet to pollute a public water supply after 60 years of doing it. What a dilemma – choosing between the reality of drinking water contamination from water tanks you can see with your own eyes and the phantom contamination mouthed by the likes of your politically correct role models (Fox, Yoko, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, et al). My advice: don’t worry about the fracking water.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Worry About the Fracking Water

  1. Pingback: Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 | Marcellus Drilling News

  2. Why does everyone neglect to point out that NYC does NOT filter its drinking water? If tracking is allowed in then watershed NYC is afraid the USEPA will mandate filtration. They are not afraid of pollution from fracking but are afraid of mandatory filtration.

  3. NYC has a lot more problems then their water tanks. They will probably not get an extension of the FAD agreement from the EPA in 2017 because the water quality in the Catskill system are deteriorating and its not from oil and gas development! They are relying more and more on the Delaware system and there is only so much water they can take out without effecting the eco systems down basin.

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