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SOURCE: DeSmog Blog

DATE: April 25, 2019

SNIP: On April 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told two environmental groups that it had decided it was “not necessary” to update the federal standards handling toxic waste from oil and gas wells, including the waste produced by fracking.

State regulators have repeatedly proved unable to prevent the industry’s toxic waste from entering America’s drinking water supplies, including both private wells and the rivers from which public drinking water supplies are drawn, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a 2017 national study.

The corrosive salt-laden wastewater from fracked wells has been spread on roads as a de-icer. It’s been sprayed into the air in the hopes of evaporating the water — a practice that spreads its blend of volatile chemicals into the air instead. Oil industry wastewater has even been used to irrigate crops — in California, where state regulators haven’t set rules to keep dangerous chemicals like the carcinogen benzene out of irrigation water.

If equally contaminated waste came from other industries, it would usually be designated hazardous waste and subject to strict tracking and disposal rules designed to keep the public safe from industrial pollution. But in July 1988, after burying clear warnings from its own scientists about the hazards of oilfield waste, the EPA offered the oil and gas industry a broad exemption from hazardous waste handling laws.

The decision comes as a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment, calls attention to the oil and gas waste produced in Pennsylvania for nearly that entire time.

The oil and gas industry has flooded Pennsylvania with over 380 million barrels of liquid waste from 1991 to 2017, that study found — enough to fill an area the size of a standard city block with a column of wastewater over 200 feet tall.

And that flood has been picking up pace. One out of every seven of those gallons was produced in 2017 alone.

Fifty-five known chemicals that fracked oil and gas operations release into the air and the water can cause cancer, a Yale Public Health analysis found last year. Oil and gas workers are routinely exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, a 2014 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found.