Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Cathedrals
Next story: Scorecard: The Week's Winners and Losers

Seven Days: News More Than Worth The Cost of This Issue

Goodbye, dusty old books! Not to prisons nor hospitals nor bookstores will you go...

The Public Library Fires Books, Too

We’ve all heard about the staff cuts in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library as a result of slashed funding, but that’s not all that’s being downsized in the system. Since last fall we’ve been hearing numerous reports of a massive recycling project at the downtown branch of the library. The recycled materials? Books.

We received photos of several large bins of books, destined to be recycled by Cascades Recovery—formerly Metro Waste Paper Recovery—the company that holds the contract for Erie County’s recycling needs. According to a Cascade spokesperson, the covers will be ripped off and the bulk of the glued bindings stripped away before the paper can be chewed up and recycled.

Library deputy director and COO Mary Jean Jakubowski said, “Weeding is a normal process within any library. We looked at this as a necessity in context of a variety of things.”

First and foremost, if a book hadn’t circulated in five years, it made the “dusty book list.

“And frankly, we were finding we had a lot of damaged books on our shelves,” Jakubowski said. “So we chose this as a time to really work toward consolidating our collections in removing those items…those and some other criteria.”

When asked for a list of books that had been pitched, Jakubowski said, “We do not keep a collaborative list of the materials that have been weeded. We do, however, start with a list, something called our ‘dusty book reports.’ Some of those materials may not have been five years old. They would meet other criteria for discarding them—if they’re worn out, or if there’s duplication throughout our library system.”

How many titles were discarded? “I honestly don’t have that information. I can see what statistical information we can get our hands on.” According to Jakubowski, that will take a week to compile. A ballpark figure of 19,000 to 20,000 volumes may have made their way to the recycling bins.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think people are being honest with you,” Jakubowski said, after asking us to identify our sources on the issue, “and that makes me very sad. I think we have a lot of changes going on, and change is very difficult. We have some very difficult times right now, and in order to move forward we have to make some very difficult choices.”

Library spokesperson Joy Testa-Cinquino described our informants this way: “People may not be being honest with you because they’re not happy with the situation that’s going on here with regard to some of the changes in the building. Consolidation of spaces, job changes, things like that. Because that may not be as positive as everyone would like it to be, they may be looking to find a rat—when there may not be a rat.”

Artvoice should have the list of titles, and the number of books that were recycled, by Tuesday, January 25, according to Jakubowski.

In the meantime, the next B&ECPL board of trustees meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 20 (today) in the Joseph B. Rounds Conference Room of the downtown library, 1 Lafayette Square, at 4pm. Meetings are open to the public. (bq)

Follow the Frack Water

Tuesday’s meeting of the Buffalo Common Council Legislative Committee was crowded with environmental activists there to decry the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. (The Council is considering a moratorium on hydrofracking within city limits, and Tuesday’s meeting amounted to a public forum on the proposal.) Present, too, were several representatives of energy companies, which are eager for state government to approve exploitation of the New York’s Marcellus Shale using the controversial practice of deep well, horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which has been blamed for destroying drinking wells and compromising streams and other bodies of surface water wherever it is employed, including nearby Pennsylvania.

Among the industry representatives was John Holko, president of Lenape Resources in Batavia and secretary of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York. In the back row sat former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, now a lobbyist with the firm Park Associates, whose clients include energy companies.

Why should pro-fracking industry representatives bother combatting a proposed moratorium in a city like Buffalo, far removed from the gas-rich Marcellus shale, where no drilling is contemplated?

Here’s one possible answer: Three years ago, a local natural gas driller sought to dispose of wastewater produced by hydrofracking at the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s wastewater treatment facilities, according to a document filed with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

In 2008, U.S. Energy Development Corporation, based in Getzville, sought approval for a natural gas well that would be stimulated by hydrofracking—the injection of water and sand mixed with chemicals into a well to loosen the rock bed and free the gas. The water for the fracking fluid would be drawn from nearby streams or ponds. The company anticipated that about 25 percent of the fluid injected into the well would return to the surface, where it would be stored in lined pits. The flowback fluid would then be emptied from the pits and transported to two locations for disposal, according to the document the company filed with DEC: a wastewater treatment plant in Warren, Pennsylvania, and the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Squaw Island wastewater treatment plant.

However, the head of the Buffalo Sewer Authority, David Comerford, says that fracking fluid has never been accepted at Squaw Island. He says that he recalls an Ohio company proposing to contract with the authority to dispose of wastewater from natural gas drilling operations, but the inquiry hit a dead end when Comerford asked the company to provide him with a breakdown of what was in the wastewater the company wanted to ship here. He says the company simply did not respond.

Many natural gas companies are cagey about revealing the contents of the fracking fluid they use, because, they say, the formulas are proprietary. At Tuesday’s meeting Holko said that landowners who lease to gas drillers are told what’s in the fluid, but not the proportions; he added that the information is available but “it’s not something we post on the side of the road.”

Comerford says he does not recall fielding an inquiry from U.S. Energy. U.S. Energy president Doug Walch did not return to a phone call requesting comment. A DEC representative says the agency is researching applications from U.S. Energy and other companies that list the Buffalo Sewer Authority as a potential recipient of wastewater from fracking.

Fracking fluid consists primarily of water and sand, mixed with a cocktail of chemicals that includes many toxins and known carcinogens: methanol, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, napthalene, benzene, toluene, xylene, to name just a few. Shallow-well, vertical fracking is currently permitted and widespread in New York State, and uses 30,000-80,000 gallons of fluid per well each time a well is fracked. (Wells can be fracked up to 10 times each.) Deep-well horizontal fracking—the method that is the subject of the documentary Gasland, is blamed for contaminating well water and streams, and is under review in New York State—uses between two and nine million gallons of water per well. (In the fall, the state legislature approved a temporary moratorium on both kinds of fracking that would expire in July, to allow more time to study the environmental consequences; Governor David Paterson vetoed that bill and instead ordered state agencies to refrain from considering permits for horizontal fracking only, allowing vertcial fracking to continue.) Even if the chemicals comprise just one percent of the total volume of fracking fluid used, that amounts to 20,000-90,000 gallons of toxic chemicals per horizontally fracked well. The natural gas industry envisions thousands of such wells being developed in the Marcellus Shale if the state government permits the practice, and thousands of existing, vertically fracked wells continue to produce flowback.

That means a great deal of contaminated water which must be stored or treated and discharged somewhere. (To say nothing of the 75 percent of chemical-laden frack fluid that remains underground. At Tuesday’s meeting, Holko spoke several time of the industry’s determination to “minimize the surface impacts” of hydrofracking, which seemed to skirt three-quarters of the issue. The phrase was one of many that drew guffaws from the anti-fracking crowd.) As a result, the natural gas industry might reasonably fear having any possible means of disposal closed to them.

“What use is a ban on fracking in Buffalo if we then allow this highly toxic fluid to be dumped into our most precious water sources,” says Albert Brown of Frack Action Buffalo, who testified in favor of a hydrofracking moratorium on Tuesday. “We must make sure that the ban includes a strong ‘no dumping of frack fluids’ section in it.” (gk)

geoff kelly & buck quigley

blog comments powered by Disqus