Drilling for oil and gas produces a lot of wastewater. There’s tons of the stuff just sitting around, too toxic to release back into the environment, and oil companies have long wondered what they’re supposed to do with it. Recently, it seems they’ve come up with a new idea: Just dump it onto roads in winter to stop snow from sticking.
On one hand, you can see the thought process. Municipalities already dump salt on the roads to prevent snow buildup, and drilling wastewater is salty — why not just swap them out? Then you hear that drilling wastewater poisons cattle, and you go, Jesus Christ why are we even talking about this?
[I]ndustry representatives are now trying to convince Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to consider allowing its use in their state as well. But wastewater is more than just ancient, underground seawater — it also has benzene, arsenic, and the radioactive isotopes radium 226 and 228 riding in it.
Now, sure, this all sounds bad. Benzene certainly isn’t great, arsenic is worse, and once you start talking about radioactivity I start to think I should be wearing some protective gear. But, every innovation has tradeoffs — surely this wastewater is at least more effective in suppressing snow and dust than plan old salt, right? From Heatmap:
The wastewater, it turns out, washes right off the road without even suppressing dust.
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