By Gary Buiso
The machinations of energy companies in upstate New York could have a devastating impact on Brooklyn’s drinking water, a local lawmaker warned last week.
In counties that are subsumed by an area known as the Marcellus Shale, gas giants are seeking to extract methane from subterranean depths, a process that could jeopardize New York City’s water supply, Assemblymember William Colton said.
To extract the gas, the companies employ a technique called hydraulic fracturing, which injects millions of gallons of water into each boring, which can be 6,000 feet below ground. The water is mixed with chemicals and sand, used to crack the shale and mine the gas.
The danger is if the water finds its way to the Catskill watershed, which supplies 90 percent of the city’s water supply. Stretching from New York to Ohio, the Marcellus Shale is a geologic formation that may contain the largest supply of natural gas in the country. Part of the formation lies underneath the city’s drinking water supply.
The drilling might not just impact downstate residents’ health — it could also impact their pocketbooks, Colton said.
Overdevelopment by the Croton reservoir, which supplies 10 percent of the city’s water supply — has resulted in an Environmental Protection Agency decree that the city build a filtration plant in the Bronx, costing upwards of $3 billion.
A filtration plant in Catskill could cost $20 billion, Colton said, resulting in astronomical increases to Brooklynite’s water bills. An 12.9 percent hike is due in July %u2013 a consequence, in part, of the cost of the building the Bronx facility, Colton said.
“We absolutely need to be concerned,” insisted Colton, a panelist at a May 28 meeting of the Sierra Club in Manhattan. The club’s Atlantic Chapter Clean Water/Watershed Committee has passed a resolution to ban drilling in areas that provide drinking water, and Colton has co-sponsored an Assembly bill that would establish an two-mile exclusionary zone to protect the city’s watershed.
“There is a lot of money at stake,” Colton noted. “There are those who believe that this could be a boon for the state. There is a lot of pressure to approve the drilling.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is in the process of producing a draft environmental impact statement, which will detail if the drilling could impact the water supply, Colton said. Following the document’s release, a public comment period will ensue. “People should be prepared to comment,” the state lawmaker urged. “They need to make it clear that New York City’s watershed is protected.”