What the frack? Hydrofracking debate heats up

Photographer J Henry Fair visited fracking sites in the Northeast for his book “The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis.”

City residents don’t want anyone tampering with their water.

Hundreds of New Yorkers descended onto Albany on April 11 to support a bill to hamper hydraulic fracturing — a process in which natural gas reserves are extracted from the earth through drilling.

Hydrofracking is banned in New York state until this summer, when the Department of Environmental Conservation will release a review on the process.

The Catskill watershed, where New York City gets its famously unfiltered H20, has caught the attention of hydrofrackers who want access to the gas underneath.

“The city has been vocal about preventing hydrofracking in the Catskills,” said Kate Hudson, watershed program director for Riverkeeper, a nonprofit. “The city would have to construct a water filtration plant to purify the water. It’s a huge expense New York City has been trying to avoid.”

The hydrofracking process adds gas, chemicals, salt and radioactive substances to the water it withdraws, said Erik Keviat, executive director of Hudsonia, a nonprofit research institute.

“All these chemicals are very toxic,” Keviat said. “People are concerned about the potential human illnesses that could be caused by fracking chemicals.”

Beyond toxic water and higher taxes to fund a filtration plant, the consequences of hydrofracking could also leak into New Yorkers’ kitchens, warned Hudson.

“Many people believe that New York food tastes the way it does because of its unfiltered water,” said Hudson. “There is one group with a campaign to save our bagels.”

Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter at @EmilyatMetro.


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