Environmental Impacts of PennEast Pipeline Julia L. Barringer, Ph.D.
What have I done about this? Worked with Dr. Tullis Onstott, Dept. of Geosciences, Princeton University, to write documents outlining potential environmental impacts of the pipeline. Submitted documents as intervenors to FERC. The environmental impacts are many; three in particular stand out. Potential release of carcinogenic and toxic arsenic from rocks to groundwater and surface water; Release of carcinogenic radioactive elements from rocks to groundwater, surface water, and air.
Endangerment of structures, such as the Swan Creek Reservoir dam by blasting, drilling, and fracturing of bedrock. Any trenching, drilling, or blasting that creates new fractures in the area bed rocks will expose new rock surfaces. This has the potential for increased leaching of contaminants of geologic origin (arsenic, and radioactive elements uranium, radium, and radon) to leach or escape to groundwater within the rock fractures, and to speed the dispersal of those elements. Why are we focusing on arsenic and radioactive elements? Because these are already at and above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLS) in water from many wells in the areas through which the pipeline would pass. Arsenic MCL – 5 parts per billion (5 mg/L) Gross Alpha MCL – 15 picoCuries /liter Any increase in existing levels are to be avoided! Arsenic (As) can be released from the area geologic formations (the Lockatong and the Passaic) by different mechanisms.
In the Lockatong , with O2 introduced, As is mobilized from pyrite (FeS2 ) and arsenopyrite (FeAsS) as sulfide and arsenide are oxidized (typically by microbes), combining with oxygen. In the Passaic Formation, As (as arsenate) that is sorbed to iron oxide coatings is desorbed as the pH of ground water in rock pores and joints increases above ~8. e- As An additional and important mechanism of As release and mobilization is caused by microbes in an oxygen-poor environment getting energy from iron (Fe) and As, transferring electrons to them, and creating mobile forms of Fe and As. Cathodic protection installed with the pipeline (to prevent corrosion) has the potential to create the oxygen-poor environment in which such Feand As-releasing microbes can thrive.
Radioactive elements (principally uranium and its daughter products radium and radon) can also be released by disturbance and fracturing to groundwater and (for radon) to air. Uranium, more abundant in the Stockton Formation, is mobile in oxygen-rich conditions. Radium, present in water from many area wells, can be released in oxygen-poor conditions, similar to those in which arsenic is released. Other harmful effects of drilling and blasting during pipeline installation: Shallow groundwater, most directly affected by pipeline installation, discharges to most area streams and also to wetlands. Therefore drilling tunnels beneath streams and trenching in wetlands destroys the natural hydrology, potentially altering streamflow, affecting stream biota, delivering contaminants to streams, and causing drying of wetlands. New fracturing from drilling and blasting can potentially damage existing structures, such as the reservoir dam upgradient from Lambertville. Injection of drilling fluids during drilling is unwise in bedrock that is heavily faulted. Although requested, no studies have been carried out (save for a seriously flawed leaching experiment) to determine whether these potential damages will likely occur. Existing data from nearby and elsewhere indicates that these concerns are real. An “oops” after the fact is NOT acceptable