County Citizens’ Voices Will Be Heard

To The Reader’s Forum:

Not only did Norman Carlson incorrectly paraphrase me in his July 15th Readers’ Forum response to my earlier contribution, he also managed to miss my point.

First things first: my point was that, just as Rachel Carson expressed concern about and raised public awareness of the environmental effects of the use of chemical pesticides in 1962, some Chautauqua County residents are today questioning (to quote my previous letter) “the potential environmental effects of the disposal of waste fluids resulting from the high-volume hydrofracturing of shale formations.” I do see a parallel in the two topics, now separated by half a century, and submit that what was not known about the effects of pesticides then is similar to our lack of knowledge about possible environmentally harmful effects of gas and oil well brine disposal today.

As for being paraphrased, I did not state that hydrofracturing itself was, to use Mr. Carlson’s word, “bad,” although I do have questions about aspects of the process, the adequacy of state DEC regulation of the industry, and the industry’s acceptance of new regulations to protect the environment. Rather, I was citing concerns about fluid waste disposal which were communicated to me as a county legislator, concerns which I share. Although Mr. Carlson is apparently amused by, and haughtily questions, the ability of “the people” to know what chemicals are and to utilize scientific information and logic, I assure him that those with whom I have corresponded on this issue are very well educated and informed and are not worthy of his misdirected criticism.

It is important for Chautauqua County residents to know that, in response to public requests, a special committee of the county Water Quality Task Force has addressed the matter of the use of brine from gas and oil wells for de-icing and dust control on area roads. That use is by no means a recent practice, preceding by several decades the relatively new, and in important ways different, process of high volume hydrofracturing of horizontal wells in the shale formations of the Appalachian Basin and elsewhere. Information on the chemical constituents of the brine and the volumes used on county roads has been assembled, and the committee members will soon summarize the information and state their conclusions. Meanwhile, I encourage county citizens to continue to voice their concerns and assure them that they will be heard, whatever their political philosophies and affiliations, including those who might be liberal contributors to environmental organizations.

Thomas A. Erlandson

Chautauqua County legislator