Board considers ordinance to ban fracking waste

NAUGATUCK — A proposed ordinance that would ban the storage of waste materials from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the borough drew a mixed response.

Fracking is a process where pressurized liquid is sprayed into a well to fracture rock and ground in order to make oil and natural gas more accessible.

“The waste has minerals, salts and a lot of items we are not even sure what it contains as a result of this extraction process,” said Borough Attorney Ned Fitzpatrick during an April 3 public hearing on the ordinance

The proposed ordinance would also ban the use of fracking waste as an ingredient in asphalt for repaving roads.

Fitzpatrick said the state legislature currently has a moratorium on fracking waste statewide and is expected to adopt regulations regarding fracking waste by July. The proposed ordinance would be a way of keeping the fracking waste away regardless of what the legislature decides, he said.

The ordinance, which was created by Jennifer Siskind of the international nonprofit Food and Water Watch, has already been adopted by 19 municipalities, including Middletown, Portland, and Southbury, Fitzpatrick said. Prospect is considering the ordinance.

In Naugatuck, the proposed ordinance was reviewed and supported by the Conservation Commission.

Response to the ordinance among the public was split.

Resident Jim O’Donnell said he’s in favor of fracking and isn’t concerned about the storage of the waste. He felt the ordinance was being pushed by a special interest group rather than by careful consideration of the pros and cons of fracking.

“This, to me, is an example of an asymmetric piece of legislation. Someone comes forward, they mimeograph these, and they go to every single town and ban frack waste,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell contended the waste would not likely be shipped to Connecticut since most fracking takes place in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“It is pretty hard to believe that people in Pennsylvania are going to spend a lot of money to take all their waste and bring it to Connecticut where the land is expensive and they have to pay for the transportation costs,” O’Donnell said.

Fitzpatrick said shipping any type of waste long distances is not an uncommon occurrence. He pointed out that the borough shipped its sewage to Texas for processing when the incinerator at the wastewater treatment plant was shut down.

Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan called the proposed ordinance an “ordinance in search of a problem.”

“This is an ordinance that we don’t need. We don’t have a problem. We already have too many ordinances,” Sheridan said. “Let’s have laws that make some sense and have some value in terms of doing things that we need to be doing rather than putting up ordinances to block things we don’t really know much about.”

Shagufta Zahid, a member of the Conservation Commission, pointed out that the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection named fracking waste a hazardous material.

“I think that is good enough for a ban,” Zahid said.

Burgess Carl Herb said he supported the ordinance in order prevent any issues from possibly occurring, such as oil leaking into the ground from the waste.

“This ordinance is preventive, to take a little action before something happens to Naugatuck,” Herb said. “I think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The board continued the public hearing to its May 1 meeting.