Traverse City Record-Eagle

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August 18, 2013

Fracking waste worries grow


Team Services applied in the spring of 2012 for permission to apply brine to area roads from two fracked wells. Ray Vugrinovich, the DEQ's chief geologist in Lansing, granted permission for both applications.

Vugrinovich said he knew the wells were supposed to be fracked, but that designation made no difference in his decision because state regulations don't differentiate between methods used to draw gas from wells.

Regulators in northern Michigan had a different opinion, though, state documents show. They told area environmentalists the previous year the flow-back water from fracking operations would be disposed of only at approved injection wells.

Henderson said he wasn't aware the state had permitted the two fractured wells for road brine applications. When a local environmentalist reported fracking fluid had been applied to Sunset Trail in Kalkaska County, Henderson stuck a plug back in the dike.

In June 2012 he issued a moratorium on the use of fracking flow-back water as brine for road ice melting and dust control.

The chemical composition of industrial fracking fluid is considered proprietary and state officials won't fully disclose the recipe. Most of the chemical types, but not their concentrations, are posted online by the state after wells are drilled.

"To be on the safe side, we wanted to make sure we had all of the chemistry that was involved in that brine to make sure it is safe," Henderson said. "We've just extended that moratorium for another year ... as we continue to test these wells."

The DEQ tested the roads where the flow-back water had been applied and the tanks where it had been stored for four different chemical agents it knows are used in the fracking fluid and found all the levels within acceptable limits.

But the DEQ failed to publicly share its knowledge that roads in Cheboygan County also were brined with fracking flow-back water.

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