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2,657,560 litres discharged in Huntingdon: The Mayor offered to supply water and also treatment of waste water to all the shale gas industry.

Last November and December, tank trucks were waiting in line at the Huntingdon water treatment plant, in order to discharge 2,657,560 litres of waste water which came from three holding pools belonging to Cambrian Energy in La Presentation, St-Barnabe and St-Hyacinthe

We learned that the City of Huntingdon had finalised contracts or offered its services to all the companies of exploitation of shale gas in Quebec, not only for treatment of their waste water but also to supply them with enormous quantities of fresh water coming from its drinking water filtration plant. The Minister of municipal affairs (MAMROT) had designated eleven municipal water filtration plants as having the capacity to treat such effluents, based exclusively on the fact that they had excess capacity for water treatment: only Huntingdon has chosen this path.

Alerted, the citizens of the Suroît region have founded the Suroît Shale Gas Watch Committee in January 2012 to examine the risks associated with this undertaking. Supported by a group of competent and credible scientists, here we bring to your attention the exact situation after first reflection:


Shale gas waste water: A real danger to health and the environment

Each drilling site requires on average about 12 million litres of water, which contains ½ of 1% of diverse chemical products: antiseptics, friction-reduction additives, rust inhibitors, surfactants, etc. Even if diluted at 1%, this gives considerable quantities: about 100,000 litres of chemical additives for each well (6 to 10 drillings for each well) (1). A major part of this water rises to the surface and must be decontaminated before being returned to nature. Multiply this by 20,000 wells coming in the future, to have an idea of the quantities which will eventually be rejected when the industry is running at full capacity

The gas companies have been very secretive about the composition of these chemical cocktails. A few partial lists have been published, but especially thanks to the patient work of Mrs. T. Colborn (2) we have started to have a better idea of their content. (Recently, many American states have required the publication of the lists of chemical additives. . . .and we can only state that the concerns raised have been well founded.

From among the 944 chemical compounds mentioned in diverse sources, only 353 were identified clearly enough (by their CAS number) (Chemical Abstract Service) to permit analysis of their toxicity. This toxicity is established according to information notices furnished by their producers, as well as established facts in scientific literature. If we only consider soluble contaminants (volatile contaminants having no doubt evaporated in the holding pools), Colborn states that about 90% of these additives have well known health effects on skin, eyes and sense organs, on the respiratory system, and on the digestive system; about half of them have health effects on the nervous system, the immune system, the kidneys, the circulatory system or the hormonal system; 20% to 30% are well known carcinogenic or mutagenic. Some of them can be deadly or bad for the environment. The table below summarises these statements:

(Adapted from T. Colborn, o.c.

Let us remember that endocrine disturbers (more that 45% of the identified contaminants) act even in infinitesimal doses. Other toxic substances can have effects which are apparent long term, even in the next generation, or in addition, can accumulate in fat tissues or in the food chain. Short term survival of a few trout or daphnia in Huntingdon`s treated water is not reassuring proof.

Huntingdon`s waste water treatment plant is not equipped to treat drilling water

Like most waste water treatment in Quebec, Huntingdon`s plant uses the technology of aerated pools, the first one having injectors of pulsating air. Regarding the industrial vocation of the City, the pools have been enlarged in order to receive additional volume.

`…Therefore for the toxic chemicals which are biodegradable slowly or not at all, the main functions of the process of aerated pools would be to accumulate the sludge at the bottom and to dilute this waste…` (Yves Cormeau, Professor at Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal and expert on water treatment: e-mail to Suroit Shale Gas Watch Committee, January, 2012).

The Strategic Environmental Study Committee on Shale Gas (EES) (3.) itself states, in its realisation plan recently published:

One of the practices being used consists in treating waste water from drilling by municipalities' water treatment facilities. But we know that municipal water treatment plants are designed to treat typical domestic waste water, which consists especially in organic matter. They are not designed for the treatment of wastewater provided by the shale gas industry, which contains total dissolved solids (especially salts) and products which can harm treatments, used in municipal water treatment plants. Moreover, in this period of development of the industry, the volumes of water to be treated and managed could greatly exceed the capacities of municipal plants (p. 33).

Risks for surface water and for the groundwater: The history of the contamination of the lagoons of Mercier teaches us to be prudent.

Except for what is deposited by settling at the bottom of the pools, soluble contaminants in the water treated this way will go directly into the effluents of the plant, which will be discharged directly into the Chateauguay River. Part of it will go, by slow percolation of the ponds or by accidental spilling, into the groundwater, which in the area of Huntingdon`s water treatment plant is extremely vulnerable (DRASTIC index more than 100 in many areas) (4.)

The sludge deposited at the bottom of the pools must be evacuated at some future time. According to the norms of the Quebec government, they must be revalued, that is to say, they must be spread on agricultural land as fertilize residual materials. The MDDEP confirms to us in effect that this sludge will be judged to be spreadable if it conforms to the criteria of the "Guide de valorisation" in force. Nothing in this guide takes into account the new contaminants introduced by the treatment of water from shale gas drilling. Therefore, they will be added to all the other contaminants already present in this sludge, to increase the intoxication of the lands and waters of our countryside.

Ambiguous regulations and non-existing controls from the government: An open door for ecological disasters.

Although the respective responsibility of the different ministers (Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs; Ministère des affaires municipales, des régions et de l'organisation du territoire; Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la faune, and Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux) in the follow-up of exploitation of shale gas remains ambiguous, there are no clear and strict regulations concerning the use and handling of toxic substances which are a risk to health or for the environment. Controls from the government bodies are insufficient, usually limited to follow-up of specific incidents or complaints from citizens.

Supply of fresh water to the shale gas industry: The Châteauguay river in peril.

If it develops according to the ambition of the shale gas industry, some 20,000 wells will be dug and drilled in the Saint Lawrence Valley during the coming years. In order to carry out these operations, enormous quantities of fresh water are required, whether it is drinking water from wells in the groundwater or produced by water treatment plants, or water taken from surface waterways. This cannot be done without having a major impact on the hydric system of the region.

In conclusion:

  • Because the municipal treatment plants are not designed to eliminate chemical products contained in liquids of exploration or drilling used by the shale gas industry;

  • Because these drilling waters are not treated in these installations, but only diluted and discharged almost entirely into the Chateauguay River;

  • Because these toxic products dispersed into the air, in waterways and in the soil are harmful for the health of humans, fauna and flora, in short, medium and long term;

  • Because such discharges are in violBecause the municipal treatment plants are not designed to eliminate chemical produation of Laws in force in Quebec;

We demand that the government pf Quebec:

  • Never again authorise treatment of waste water from the shale gas industry by municipal water treatment plants;

  • Require the City of Huntingdon to proceed to effective treatment of the sludge already accumulated in its pools and contaminated by products of the shale gas industry;

  • To forbid municipalities from using drinking water to meet the demands of the shale gas industry.

Le Comité de vigilance Gaz de Schiste du Suroît,
The Suroît Shale Gas Watch Committee,

April, 2012


  1. Quebec National Institute of Public Health, State of knowledge about the relation between activities of shale gas industry and public health. Quebec, November, 2010.
    On line: E=p&numPublication=1177

  2. Theo Colborn e.a., Natural gas operations from a public health perspective. The endocrine disruption exchange, Paonia, CO, USA.
    On line: Manuscript Preprintforweb 12-5-11.pdf

  3. Committee of Strategic Environmental Study of shale gas, Completion of Study Plan, final version, Quebec, April 2012.
    On line:

  4. Atlas of Chateauguay river basin. Québec, 2006. Ministère du Développement durable, de l’ Environnement et des Parcs. 64 p.
    On line :

For more information:

More references about problems with the exploitation of shale gas will be found on the web site of the Collectif scientifique sur la question du gaz de schiste,
on line:

The shale gas watch over the shale gas industry is coordinated by the Regroupement Interrégional Gaz de Schiste de la Vallée du St-Laurent.
On line:

To contact the Shale Gas Watch Committee of the Suroît region, and to receive our periodic updates, go to: