Akzo Nobel has responded to local media articles regarding its “negotiations with New York State” relative to Akzo’s plans to discontinue the brine pumping and thereby sacrifice the lower aquifer. Let’s take a look!
Paragraph 1 indicates this is the company’s statement on the matter, yet it goes on to say that, “as we are still negotiating with the State, I unfortunately can’t provide you any further details.” A statement on this matter without details is irrelevant — it is simply the company’s way of saying the residents of Livingston County do not matter. Mr. Pul, what is your basis for precluding from these “negotiations” a legal signatory to the MOU establishing the brine pumping? Furthermore, what is your basis for disrespecting the residents of Livingston County by withholding “further details?”
In the Pumping Activities paragraph we find Mr. Pul speaking of the conclusions drawn by AlphaGeoscience’s study of the brine pumping test and stating, “if pumping is stopped brine exiting the mine will have no effect on any source of water currently used for drinking or irrigation….” — this does appear to be supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report — but, Mr. Pul goes on and states, “or on any source of water likely to be used in the future for drinking or irrigation.” Really, Mr. Pul? You can see into the future and tell Livingston County residents that the water in this aquifer is never likely to be used in the future? The USGS report does not suggest this. Mr. Pul, wouldn’t it be more honest for Akzo to say once we stop the brine pumping and sacrifice the aquifer to ever increasing salinity contamination for which we are wholly responsible, the cost of treatment for what we have created will be too high so forget about ever using it for drinking water or irrigation.
This section also states, “The test also demonstrated that this approach to controlling the brine emerging from the mine is not practical, cost-effective or sustainable for the more than 2,000 years that brine will be exiting the mine.” Mr. Pul, practical means ‘relating to what is real rather than to what is possible or imagined.’ What is real is that the advanced desalinization technology, in fact the development of not just the technology but an entire process, worked — it has prevented brine from entering the aquifer and contaminating it!! Not cost-effective to whom? Mr. Pul, would you care to share with us the total 2012 profit of Akzo Nobel and Zurich Insurance. Even a cursory look at the financial reports of these two corporations demonstrate the purported cost of operating the brine plant (~$2MM / year) is in the very, very, very low end of ‘hundredths of one percent’ of the combined profit. Mr. Pul, are you saying that these two corporations are unwilling to commit hundredths of one percent of their yearly profit but are chomping at the bit to sacrifice an aquifer?? Not sustainable? Mr. Pul, in what sense are you using sustainable — does it mean the two corporations simply do not want to sustain the cost of operating the brine plant, a plant developed for the sole purpose of mitigating the contamination that your company is wholly responsible for. Or are you using it in terms of sustainability which means, fundamentally, ‘involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources?’ Hmm!!
In the Proposed Settlement section, Mr. Pul states, “Rather than continue the pumping test, which serves no further useful purpose, AkzoNobel proposes to make a substantial lump-sum payment to the State to be used to fund useful public works projects in Livingston County.” Ah, yes!! Once again we find the crystal ball determining that there is “no further useful purpose.”
Mr. Pul, how much is that “substantial lump-sum payment” going to be and what is it going to be based on? Have you asked Livingston County what “useful public works projects” it has considered in any of its planning? Have you asked them how much these “useful public works projects” are going to cost? What exactly are you talking about?? Oh, that’s right, it’s a secret!!
In the Drinking Water section, Mr. Pul states, “The scientists all agree that any brine that exits the mine will stay in the deep aquifer, which is too far below the surface to be used for wells for drinking water or irrigation.” Mr. Pul, the scientists do not agree the deep aquifer is too far below the surface to be used for wells for drinking water or irrigation. Your scientist simply opines this. There is no mention of this in the USGS report. In fact, the USGS report states, “Ultimate resolution of the salinization threat to the lower confined aquifer will depend on the perceived value of the aquifer, currently a largely untapped resource.”
Mr. Pul also states, “In addition, the deep aquifer is not a reservoir of fresh water – it is a large layer of rock, sand, gravel and dirt that is permeated with water and has pockets of brine and brackish water that are naturally present.” A thorough reading of the AlphaGeoscience report finds that freshwater samples have been recorded, but the study discounts this as singular instances unsubstantiated by further testing. Basically, a thorough reading would lead any reasonable person to conclude that there is not sufficient knowledge of the aquifer to determine its overall water quality. The aquifer is, after all, estimated to be 25 – 30 miles long.
And lastly, in the Environmental Effects section, Mr. Pul states, “The geologist who has overseen the monitoring done in connection with the pumping test has concluded that the brine will have no material effect on the deep aquifer.” No material effect! Really? Negative impacts are material. Increasing the salinity concentration of this aquifer through contamination your company is wholly responsible for is a material effect — your company’s contamination of the aquifer cannot be dismissed as having no real importance or consequences.
Mr. Pul, the bottom-line here is that likely due to the contractual scope of the report as established by your company, the well credentialed and respected Dr. Gowan did not include any discussion on the advancement of desalinization technology or the fact that depth to an aquifer is no longer a disqualifier for identifying drinking water sources, even if they have to be treated. Both are occurring presently and will much more than likely increase in the future. Livingston County cannot and will not be fooled!!