“They collected it and sent it to a third party independent lab and the results were undetectable,” Public Works director Ramesh Ummat said, of fracking wastewater samples taken from the holding ponds at Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS).
AIS has applied for permission to discharge 4.5 million litres of fracking wastewater into the municipal sewer system.
A decision has yet to be made on the application but in the interim, numerous members of the public have expressed concern about the naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMS) contained in the wastewater as well as the possibility that it also contains benzene.
In simple terms, benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil and one of the most basic petrochemicals.
“Benzene as a matter of chemical is a constituent of diesel,” Ummat said. “So in some fracking waters diesel used to be used as a lubricant to force sand into the cracks and fractures to be able to keep them open.”
AIS also had the fracking waste tested for NORMs,” Ummat said, and of the six elements that were detected, five of the samples fall within the acceptable guidelines put out by Health Canada before treatment.
The sixth NORM element also met Health Canada guidelines after treatment, he said.
Concern has also been expressed that the municipality stands to benefit financially if AIS is permitted to discharge fracking wastewater.
AIS does pay the municipality at a rate of $2.57 for every 4,540 litres of treated wastewater it discharges into the sewer system (although no frack water is currently being discharged) on a cost-recovery model based “on volume not what” is being discharged, Ummat said.
In other words, regardless of whether frack wastewater is permitted for discharge, the municipality does not stand to gain further revenue, unless its daily allowable maximum levels were to be increased.
Even if permission is granted through the Public Works department for the frack water to be discharged, the last word will rest with council, which recently included wording in its revised sewer bylaw that gives it the right to override an engineer’s decision.