Project Under Scrutiny

WHEELING – After living in Warwood for the past 77 years, Barbara Bland fears GreenHunter Water’s natural gas frack water recycling plant will harm the community she loves.

Fourteen-year-old Sam Marshall wonders how the plant – planned for the former Seidler’s Oil Service site on North 28th Street – will impact his ability to use the adjacent Wheeling Heritage Trail.

“We don’t want this area to be ruined for our grandchildren,” Bland said during a public meeting with GreenHunter officials in Wheeling City Council Chambers on Wednesday.

“Find another way to frack your frack water,” she told John Jack, GreenHunter vice president of business development, and Rick Zickefoose, GreenHunter vice president of operations, during the two-hour meeting.

Roughly 50 residents, community leaders, elected officials and other interested parties attended the informal meeting, officiated by City Manager Robert Herron.

Many of the concerns residents expressed stem from the facility being roughly 1 mile upstream from the Wheeling Water Plant. Another potential problem, residents said, includes an increase in trucks coming through Warwood, some of which may leak frack waste.

“Would you live in Warwood?” Bland asked Jack and Zickefoose.

Jack noted he lives in Marietta, Ohio, which also gets its water from the Ohio River.

While Jack said his company wants to reduce the number of wastewater trucks on roads throughout the region, “Wheeling Water Warrior” Kate Marshall said this is only part of the picture.

“Right now, we don’t have toxic waste fracking trucks unloading in Wheeling. This will put more trucks in our neighborhood,” she said.

Other residents asked about radioactivity at the site. Although GreenHunter’s recycling process removes suspended solids from the frack water it recycles, Jack admits trace amounts of chemicals and salts will remain in the water. And while radium and uranium are considered radioactive, he said these elements will be minuscule in volume.

Someone shouted from the crowd, asking whether Jack and Zickefoose would be willing to drink the water they will keep at the site. Jack said, “I wouldn’t advise you to drink it, no. Is it safe? Yes.”

Jack said the company would submit its site plan for the main GreenHunter Warwood plant so that it could be on the agenda for the Planning Commission’s June 10 meeting.

“There are two phases to this,” Jack said. “The barging would come in the second phase because we are not even permitted to do that yet.”

Several federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget continue to review whether fracking waste can be shipped on inland waterways via barge. Jack contends there is less chance of an accident on the Ohio River than on busy roadways.

There is disagreement between city leaders and GreenHunter officials over whether the company has the authority to use the docks in place along the Ohio River near the Warwood site for barging. The city maintains that the area from the Wheeling Heritage Trail to the river is zoned for residential use, but GreenHunter leaders believe their utility easement should allow them to utilize a pipeline running under the trail to send material to the barging area.

Sam Marshall is concerned about losing the ability to use the trail.

“I could put one foot on the trail and one foot on your property,” he said, stressing the proximity. “I am worried about this.”

Jack assured Marshall his company would not disturb anyone’s ability to use the trail for recreation.