Opposition to Frack Water Plant Continues in Wheeling

WHEELING – Opponents of a proposed natural gas frack water recycling plant in Warwood inundated City Council Chambers Tuesday in hopes of keeping the facility out of their neighborhood.

Last month, Houston, Texas-based GreenHunter Water announced plans to build a treatment facility for fracking wastewater at the former site of Seidler’s Oil Service on North 28th Street, located just over a mile upstream of Wheeling’s water treatment plant, where the company plans to be working by September.

Dave Cupp, who owns a business on North 28th Street, said he is in favor of job growth, but not at what he sees as the expense of the public’s well-being.

“It seems to me common sense would dictate this is the worst possible place for this kind of facility,” Cupp said.

Bob Hyer expressed his skepticism over GreenHunter Water’s assurances that its safeguards are adequate. He said history is full of disasters thought to be impossible until they actually happened.

“The Titanic was never supposed to sink. The Hindenburg was never supposed to catch fire. … We know better. All we have to do is know our history,” he said.

Also speaking in opposition to the project were Mark Eddy, Patricia Jacobsen and Tom Triveri. Jacobsen questioned the city’s readiness to protect its water supply in the event of an accident, while Triveri urged council to pass legislation that would keep the facility out of Wheeling.

A rally in protest of the GreenHunter Water plant is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at Warwood’s Garden Park. Organizers are inviting anyone from the surrounding area to attend.

John Jack, vice president of business development for GreenHunter Water, attended Tuesday’s meeting but did not address council during the public forum. Afterward, however, he said GreenHunter Water has extended an invitation to city officials to tour its New Matamoras facility – and may even be willing to hold a public meeting concerning its plans if the company can coordinate such an event with city officials.

Jack said the company’s design for containment of potential spills meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. He said the water the plant would be handling is far less toxic than the petroleum, hydrochloric acid and other chemicals shipped on the Ohio River daily.

“We test the water,” Jack said. “We do it all the time, at all of our facilities.”

Though the GreenHunter Water plan was a hot topic of discussion Tuesday, many in the standing-room-only crowd came to participate in a public hearing concerning the proposed allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant money for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposal would cut funding for the city Human Rights Commission, which is funded entirely through CDBG money, by about 89 percent, distributing much of those funds to several nonprofit agencies – many of which had received funding in the past but were cut out last year. The city has seen its overall entitlement decline about 37 percent over the last two years.

Speaking in support of continuing funding for the HRC were Youth Services System Executive Director John Moses and city residents Jerry Craig, Geneva Barrax and the Rev. Jeremiah Jasper. State Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons also wrote a letter supporting the commission.

“By retaining the current funding level of the Human Rights Commission, we will continue to allow local people to handle the important task of rooting out discrimination,” Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, wrote.

Meanwhile, Jerri Sterling, James Singer, Don Rebich, Mark Szafran and Ruth Osborne each urged council to support Wheeling Health Right, which used CDBG money to provide medication for indigent clients before being cut out of the budget last year. That organization would receive $30,000 in CDBG money under the current proposal.

“Without Health Right, my parents wouldn’t have lived as long as they did. … We need them. We need them tremendously,” Osborne said.