The Coast Guard wants to allow barges filled with fracking wastewater to ply the nation’s rivers on their way toward disposal. Many environmentalists are horrified, but industry groups say barge transport has its advantages.
The wastewater is usually disposed of by truck or rail, which poses a greater risk of accidents than shipping by barge, according to a government report. And one barge can carry about the same amount of waste as 100 exhaust-spewing trucks.
The disagreements go to the core of the fight over shale gas drilling. Environmentalists say the chemicals in fracking waste are a tragedy in the making, but the industry says far greater amounts of toxic chemicals are already being moved by barge, including waste from oil drilling.
In 2010, U.S. barges carried 2,000 tons of radioactive waste, almost 1.6 million tons of sulfuric acid and 315 million tons of petroleum products, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.