By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — A drilling process with potentially dangerous consequences for New York City’s drinking water will be up for public review for an additional month, thanks to resolutions passed by several Manhattan community boards.
The hard-earned victory came Wednesday when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it would extend the public comment period on a study documenting the impact of the drilling, called “hydraulic fracturing,” to Dec. 31.
Hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, is a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock beds by forcing a combination of water and chemicals into gas wells.
The proposed drilling would take place near the upstate watershed that provides New York City’s drinking water. Critics say that there is too much potential for the toxic chemicals used in fracking to mix with groundwater and to contaminate the water supply.
Following visits from Scott Stringer and strong campaigns by several advocacy groups, resolutions were passed at community boards across the city demanding more time for the public to investigate the process and offer feedback to the government.
Jeff Galloway, the chair of Community Board 1’s Planning and Infrastructure committee, was one of the champions of the resolution. He is not satisfied with the work the DEC has done to date on examining the implications of upstate fracking.
“It’s inherently dangerous in terms of the possibility of spills and leakages,” Galloway said. “There’s been insufficient study and evaluation of the risk of ground water contamination and its consequences.”
Galloway, a lawyer with two engineering degrees, said that the gas companies insist that the chemicals pumped into the ground will stay deep under the earth’s surface, but he says that there is not enough evidence to support this and that the risk of contamination is too great.
Several politicians are in favor of upstate natural gas drilling because of the economic benefits.
Galloway understands this perspective and is quick to note that just because the companies involved have names like Halliburton does not mean that drilling is all evil.
“But you don’t want to attain a benefit in one area while paying an unacceptable price in another,” he said. “It’s too risky in it’s current state of development.”
A public hearing on the issue will take place on Nov.10 at Stuyvesant High School.