The Norman Transcript

May 15, 2014

Water shouldn’t be subjected to risks


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

At the April 30 Council Oversight meeting, council members discussed possible rate increases for bulk water purchases. This meeting was partly a response to the concerns raised in recent Journal Record articles. These stories have focused on a gas driller purchasing large volumes of city water.

There are other important public health issues that need to be considered, as well. Norman has no policies to ensure gas drilling sites remain a safe distance from groundwater sources, watersheds or residential areas. This complete lack of regulation makes our city a very inviting place to frack.

The well site at Franklin Road is within the Little River watershed. It is surrounded on three sides by the Little River itself. The site also is bordered by three residential areas.

There no air pollution abatements in place to protect neighbors from the hazards associated with gas drilling — escaped methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemical vapors and exhausts from heavy truck traffic and electric generators.

The driller also has leased property just next the North Fork Little River to use as a disposal site for the so-called “drilling muds” and wastewater. The land application of shale gas wastewater is known to contaminate stormwater runoff and carry pollutants to surface waters.

Surface waters like the Little River and its tributaries replenish Lake Thunderbird, our main source for drinking water. If a large spill occurred, our existing water treatment facilities would be unable to remove many of the undisclosed chemicals used in fracking.

These other unregulated aspects of gas drilling have not received much attention locally, but they are equal in importance to the issues of groundwater quality and bulk water sales.

Many cities around the country are adopting all-out bans on drilling in watersheds and residential areas. In December, the Dallas City Council adopted a law requiring a minimum buffer of 1,500 feet between gas wells and homes.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recommends setbacks of up to 4,000 feet from public drinking water sources. Adopting similar setback requirements would help assure citizens our water supply remains safe and treatable.

Water is too scarce and too precious a resource to subject to these avoidable and unnecessary risks.

Casey Holcomb

Norman

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