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EPA plans for unlimited dumping of fracking wastewater in the Gulf

Offshore fracking

(NaturalNews) If you think that there are rules in place limiting the amount of toxic chemicals that can be released into the nation's waters, the Center for Biological Diversity has some bad news for you: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to allow unlimited amounts of fracking wastewater to be dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.

The EPA's draft plan to keep permitting gas and oil companies to dump unlimited fracking wastewater and chemicals into the Gulf is coming under fire, with some environmentalists pointing out that the move violates federal laws.

Attorneys working for the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to EPA officials in September warning them that the draft permit does not take into account the way in which dumping this wastewater could affect the quality of not just the water but also the marine life living in it.

They also raised concerns that important parts of the draft permit were based on data that is seriously outdated. The letter states that the study of waste fluid produced by offshore platforms that they used is 33 years old, despite the fact that more than 450 wells have been drilled just in the area in question in the past six years. Meanwhile, the most recent list of chemicals for offshore fracking is 15 years old. They added that finalizing the law without making corrections would violate the Clean Water Act.

Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kristen Monsell said: "This appalling plan from the agency that's supposed to protect our water violates federal law, and shows a disturbing disregard for offshore fracking's toxic threats to sea turtles and other Gulf wildlife."

This letter does stand a chance of being taken seriously. After all, just a few months ago, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit that led to a temporary moratorium being placed on Pacific Ocean offshore fracking. The same group is also mounting a challenge to the practice of Santa Barbara Channel fracking on the grounds it violates the Endangered Species Act.

Hundreds of wells in the Gulf of Mexico have seen the controversial practices used in recent years. In offshore fracking, chemicals, water and sand are pumped into undersea wells at very high pressure in order to break up formations of sand and rock to create pathways in which gas and oil can pass. Drillers also engage in a process known as "acidizing", which means the wells are treated with hydrochloric acid and other corrosive acids.

Marine wildlife being threatened

Many of the chemicals used in the process harm marine wildlife, and this is particularly troublesome in the Gulf area, where many species are still dealing with the effects of the BP oil spill that took place six years ago. The Gulf is an important habitat for sea turtles, fish, whales, and dolphins. This marine life needs clean water, not more toxins being pumped into the very environment it depends on to thrive.

Incredibly, the EPA allows offshore drillers to dump as much fracking and acidizing chemicals as they see fit into the water, provided that they are first mixed with wastewater from the undersea wells. More than 75 billion gallons of these so-called produced waters were dumped into the Gulf directly from gas and oil platforms in 2014 alone. While this water must adhere to toxicity standards and be free of oil, testing is only required a few times a year, which means there is a good chance that plenty of undesirable chemicals are making their way into the water anyway.

More than 1,000 fracking chemicals make their way into water

In a Yale School of Public Health analysis of fracking wastewater and fluids, researchers found 1,021 different chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Of these, 157 were associated with developmental or reproductive toxicity, underscoring the need for new regulations to be put in place to stop companies from pumping these toxins into our waters.

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