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Wheatfield fracking moratorium effective immediately

WHEATFIELD — The Wheatfield Town Board has approved a moratorium which temporarily prohibits multiple uses of fracking waste within town limits.

The unanimous vote, taken by the town board during Monday’s meeting, came in response to a rise in public concern over the past few months with regard to National Fuel’s proposed gas dehydrator on Liberty Drive.

Since National Fuel must answer to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, there is little Wheatfield can do to stop the dehydrator from being built. Town officials said the moratorium extends to all fracking waste, not just that used by National Fuel.

“Is this moratorium going to stop them? Not necessarily, but it is showing them our policy at this point,” town attorney Matthew Brooks said. “There have been cases where people take this waste and they use it for things, they use it as a de-icer on roads, they’ve used it for other chemical processes, but (this moratorium) sort of sets forth out policy that we don’t want it.”

The moratorium, which took effect immediately after its approval on Monday, specifically bans the use of fracking waste on town roads, including de-icer, for example. It also prohibits the introduction to any town wastewater treatment facility or solid waste management facility. Additionally, it prohibits the sale, acquisition, storage, handling or processing of the material.

National Fuel has scheduled a public information meeting for 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Wheatfield Community Center. Due to the occupancy limit, registration is required, and spots can be reserved by emailing a name, address, telephone number and the number of planned attendees to corpcomm@natfuel.com.

Related: Taking a stance against fracking waste.

Another meeting has been scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday in which town officials and residents within a half mile of the proposed dehydrator site will be invited to tour a similar facility at 5186 Junction Road in Cambria.

“It’s an actual dehydration facility where they take the moisture out of the gas. They want to show us how one works,” Councilman Larry Helwig said. “But when we show them videos of these YouTubes where they’ve had disasters, they tell us, ‘our facility isn’t like that one.'”

Concerned residents also approached the board to urge the town to strongly consider the rejection of the proposed subdivision off Nash Road. The site is near the Niagara Sanitation Landfill, which underwent remediation to remove remnants from Love Canal last year.

Though most of the waste was removed, the status of the landfill was recently downgraded from class three to class two. Supervisor Robert Cliffe said the classification is something that will be used to help obtain federal funding for phase two of the project. Still, residents worry about the health and safety of those who would live in the area.

Sarah Kraus, who grew up in Love Canal and now has several health problems, said she doesn’t want to see the same thing to happen to others.

“We thought it was safe,” said Kraus, who now resides on Forbes Street, not far from the landfill. “And here I am, 35 years later. I’m unable to work, I see three doctors a week. It’s not healthy, it’s not safe.”

Related: Environmentalists threaten to sue EPA over fracking waste.

Other residents have taken it upon themselves to investigate the area and any potential threats to human or environmental health. Resident Tom Stevenson said he and another person took equipment that could sense radioactivity to the site and found spots that registered radioactivity levels that were three times higher than levels on the street.

He said he spoke with an environmental engineer who said that the levels might be higher than detected if the source of the radioactivity was buried. Cliffe said these matters will be addressed if the project moves to the SEQR phase.

The Wheatfield Town Board will hold its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at Wheatfield Town Hall.

This article was written by Mia Summerson from Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.