A new map of gas-drilling leases shows numerous leased properties within the Owasco Lake watershed. Members of the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance (CAFA) sifted through more than 11,000 pages of lease documents and uncovered more than 2,300 properties with gas development agreements in southern Cayuga County. The Owasco Lake watershed, which includes properties in Onondaga and Tompkins counties, has more than 1,100 gas leases.
The map comes on the heels of recently revised state regulations guiding the implementation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in New York State. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has only granted protection to unfiltered drinking water supplies, leaving the Owasco Lake watershed open to gas drilling. Gas drillers have said they are likely to move ahead with obtaining permits for hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale by the beginning of 2012.
“This map is more comprehensive than previous maps of our county, and should inform residents and local policy makers of the potential risks involved with hydrofracking especially when it comes to our drinking water,” said Terry Cuddy, a founding member of CAFA.
Cuddy said the majority of gas leases not only allow for drilling but also for storage, and his concern is that many of these sites will be used for injection wells to contain flowback water, which is highly toxic.
“I’m also concerned about where these companies will obtain the millions of gallons of water necessary to frack these wells,” Cuddy said. “Our lake is left unprotected.”
It takes on average 5 millions of gallons of water and over 1,000 truck trips to frack one well. If hydrofracking moves ahead, the county needs to prepare itself for the tremendous increase in truck traffic and the industrialization of agricultural lands, said Walt Aikman, CAFA member who spearheaded the mapping project. With the exception of Skaneateles Lake watershed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hydrofracking plan allows high-volume hydrofracking in all Finger Lakes watersheds, Aikman said.
“The Cuomo plan claims drinking water from the Owasco Lake watershed does not need additional protection,” Aikman said. “but you’ve got to wonder how Auburn and Owasco can filter drinking water without full disclosure of the chemical composition of frack fluids.”
Aikman said he also has concerns for emergency personnel responding to accidents and spills due to that very same issue.
The Cayuga County Legislature is considering a resolution to prohibit hydrofracking in all watersheds in the Finger Lakes as well as the Lake Ontario watershed. This legislation, if approved, supports an earlier effort by State Sen. Michael Nozzolio who sent a letter to the DEC in early August insisting that all Finger Lakes’ watersheds be granted the same protections as Syracuse and New York City.