The Rural Blog: Gas drilling with hydraulic fracturing creates a lot of solid waste

April 5, 2011 | General RCAP News

Original posting of this article on April 1, 2011

Most of the conversation about waste from hydraulic-fracturing drilling operations has been focused on water, but the process also creates a large amount of solid waste. Texas farmers are struggling to "reconcile Texans’ storied love of the land with the growing practice of spreading tons of drilling mud and other toxic waste across it, a process euphemistically called ‘landfarming’," Spike Johnson and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe report for the Denton Record-Chronicle. About 1.2 barrels of solid waste are created with each foot drilled in Barnett Shale operations, and that waste is dumped onto the North Texas prairie.

"Some landowners open their gates and bank accounts to the industry’s need to dump the waste, oblivious to environmental risks," the reporters write. "While official eyes are averted, permits to dump are stretched beyond their limits." Dick Ross, a Texas goat farmer, has been fighting the Texas Railroad Commission for two years about a dump on a corn farm 50 feet from his front door. Ross says the wind blows fumes from the site in his direction the paint is striped from his house.

"Permit applications for the site came into the Railroad Commission and were approved by e-mail the next day, without a site inspection or toxicity tests," the reporters write. "Nothing in the process allows for public notice, for either comment or protest, on the dumping." Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission, said testing of the landfarm revealed no contamination above normal background levels. "My advice to anyone dealing with the gas industry: Sell your whole place, get the hell out," Ross told the reporters. "They cheat you out of your money, wreck your view and destroy your property value."