To The Editor:

Many people may not be aware our state Legislature is considering a law permitting the import into Connecticut of highly toxic, radioactive waste materials from natural gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania.

This waste would be brought here by truck and/or rail for storage, disposal and/or treatment.

What is this all about, and how has it gotten so far with so few people knowing about it?

Allow me a brief explanation.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the process of extracting natural gas from shale deposits deep in the earth by injecting, at high pressure, a combination of water, sand and highly toxic chemicals into drilled wells.

The pressure opens up cracks in the stone and allows the natural gas to be brought to the surface. Huge amounts of water are required to complete the extraction process.

For example, a moderate-sized well might require 7,000,000 gallons of water and chemicals, with as much as 20 percent of that, some 1,400,000 gallons, returning to the surface.

This waste is not only chemically contaminated, but also laced with both radon and radium, a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 1,600 years. Although it is unlikely natural gas fracking will ever occur in Connecticut (we don't have the required shale deposits), the process is occurring at a breakneck pace nationwide, most closely to us in Pennsylvania.

Are there safe ways to dispose of these highly toxic waste materials?

In Pennsylvania, there are more than 6,000 active wells, and thousands more are planned. Much of their waste has either been surface stored, with a devastating impact on local potable water quality and public health, or sent to Ohio for re-injection into the ground, a process now suspected of increasing earthquake probability.

The fact is, no one really knows what to do with this contaminated material. One thing is certain, however; they don't want it in Pennsylvania.

Consequently, there is a move on to find other locations to dump it. But there's a problem. Vermont has banned it, Massachusetts is about to and it is under moratorium in New York, all of which puts Connecticut next in line.

People are shocked when they learn just how close our Legislature is to authorizing the import of these materials into Connecticut. Why on earth, they ask, would our elected officials ever consider placing our environment and public health at such high risk?

We, the citizens of New Milford, can help stop this from happening.

Here is one way.

There are two bills pending in Hartford. The first, Senate Bill (SB) 237, would impose an outright ban on importing this waste into Connecticut.

The second, House Bill (HB) 5308 would allow the materials in, but would then attempt to regulate their disposal and/or treatment as hazardous waste.

The question here is simple. Do we want, under any circumstances, chemically toxic, highly radioactive material brought into Connecticut over our roads and rails for treatment, disposal, or storage.

My answer is a resounding "no."

If you agree, please write to and/or call this week Gov. Dannel Malloy at 860-566-4840, state Sen. Clark Chapin at 800-842-1421 and your state representative urging them to support SB 237, which would ban and prohibit this activity.

The legislature will take action in the first two weeks of May, so time is short.

There is no reason for our state to take the environmental and public health risks associated with bringing these materials into Connecticut.

Sam Callaway