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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

AMD for fracking is a good idea - but a band aid, not a cure

This article in Forbes provides an excellent overview of the the idea of using aid mine drainage - water polluted from mining operations - in place of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania.  It is, on its face, a good idea, and PA DEP is to be commended for pursuing it

But- and there is almost always a but -   I do take issue with the last sentence of the article:

We need to encourage all beneficial strategies for correcting the mistakes of the past.

It's important to understand the limits of this good idea, and not (a bit blithely) overstate the case.  Using AMD for fracking does not "correct" anything.  As I wrote here, it does not actually clean anything up. 

The official estimate of Pennsylvania’s AMD flow is 300 million gallons a day. Every day. Forever. Over 4000 miles of streams in the state are biologically "dead" as a result.  Diverting a smallish amount of AMD-polluted water, well-by-well, is far different than cleaning up a massive, pervasive statewide problem. It avoids basic questions of poor statewide water quality and consumptive use of precious water resources. 

At best, it treats a symptom. It is not a cure.   

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