The move Thursday comes as southern Kansas is experiencing a surge in horizontal drilling involving the hydraulic fracturing technique known as fracking, according to The Wichita Eagle. Senators will take a final vote on the bill later before sending it to a House committee.
The material companies could spread on Kansas fields involve clays, which often have high concentrations of chloride. It’s viewed as a cheaper and more efficient way to get rid of the large quantity of waste created by fracking. The alternative is hauling it to landfills, and officials say the landfill in Harvey County may be the only one accepting such materials.
Under the proposal, companies couldn’t spread any material that has chloride levels higher than 900 parts per million, or about two inches of material atop the soil. State officials would review the quality of irrigation water in the area to ensure chlorides pumped out to water crops don’t push chloride levels to dangerous levels.
High levels of chloride can damage plants. High chloride levels can also affect the taste of drinking water and make it more corrosive to water pipes.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said she supported drilling but had concerns about the impact of increasing the level of chlorides in areas where the Equus Beds Aquifer is only a few feet below the surface and in areas near tributaries of the Little Arkansas River.
A Senate committee added some protections to address that concern, including one that would require the materials to be incorporated into the soil, as opposed to being laid on top of soil, in areas with more than 25 inches of annual precipitation. Another change bans spreading in areas where the water table is less than 10 feet below the surface or in areas with documented groundwater contamination.
Sen. Jean Schodorf, a Wichita Republican whose family used to be active in drilling, raised concerns about how much the oil companies might disturb land.
“I have seen the waste that comes from shallow wells,” she said. “I can just imagine what the horizontal drilling will bring. It’s dirty and it’s nasty and I really don’t want that on my pastures.”
Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said landowners who don’t want things spread on their fields don’t have to allow it. He said spreading would be included as a part of any contracts landowners sign allowing companies to drill and that the material isn’t particularly dangerous.