Biologist: Keep gas industry waste brine off Wheeling’s streets - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Biologist: Keep gas industry waste brine off Wheeling’s streets

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Federal and state regulation provide no help to the Wheeling city leaders in evaluating the potential risk of siting a proposed a gas well waste fluid processing plant within city limits, according to a Wheeling Jesuit University faculty member.

"In fact, due to exemptions, there is no regulatory authority for enforcing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act with regard to the handling and disposal of waste at the facility," wrote Wheeling Jesuit biology professor Ben Stout in a June 3 letter to members of Wheeling City Council.

"The city of Wheeling is on its own and is in the uncomfortable position of making decisions about the future of community health and environmental well-being based purely on existing city ordinances."

Stout's letter was prompted by the gas industry brine processing facility GreenHunter Water proposes to build in Wheeling's Warwood section.

The facility would receive truck loads of hydraulic fracturing flowback and produced brine, would clean the brine of solids and would send it back out either for use in hydraulic fracturing job or for disposal through underground injection.

GreenHunter points out that having access to such a facility conserves the region's fresh water by promoting re-use of brine.

But Stout argues that the facility is not good for Wheeling.

Among other concerns, he presents results of West Virginia Department of Environmental laboratory testing of gas industry brine showing pH as low as 1.5 and elevated levels of heavy metals and of radioactive constituents.

Spills on truck routes, at the plant site or into the Ohio River could endanger residents and first responders and contaminate the city's drinking water, Stout said.

"Trucks transporting brinewater through city streets and into residential neighborhoods are not required to post placards identifying their contents," he wrote.

"Some of the samples of brinewater were so far in excess of drinking water standards that it seems likely that a spill in the Ohio River would negatively impact the Wheeling water intake approximately one mile downstream of the proposed facility," he wrote. "Likewise, a spill on the ground would be likely to eventually end up in the Wheeling water intake wells that are in the alluvium of the Ohio River floodplain."

The Wheeling Planning Commission currently is reviewing GreenHunter's site plan and will take it up at its July 8 meeting.