Frack Plant Plan on Hold

WHEELING – At least another month will go by before the Wheeling Planning Commission allows GreenHunter Water to build its natural gas frack water recycling plant in Warwood.

Commissioners on Monday also decided to delay voting on whether to change the zoning along Washington Avenue from residential to “educational, medical, office” as proposed by Wheeling Jesuit University, following a strong show of opposition from several residents.

Due to the commission citing a need for more information on both projects, GreenHunter’s site plan is expected to be up for review again at the 5 p.m. July 8 commission meeting in Wheeling City Council Chambers, while the Wheeling Jesuit proposal will be reviewed by the city’s Zoning Committee in the same location at 10:30 a.m. July 1.

“This is a big, controversial deal. We want to have all of our ducks in a row,” Don Atkinson, who represents City Council as a commission member, said Monday regarding GreenHunter’s project.

GreenHunter Vice President of Business Development John Jack said his company recycles water for natural gas producers such as Chesapeake Energy, Magnum Hunter, Chevron and others. He said there will be 19 storage tanks at the site, but he emphasized the old, rusty tanks left on site by the former Seidler’s Oil Service will be dismantled and removed.

“The way we used to do things in the oilfield was, ‘git ‘er done.’ Not anymore. This is a big game now,” Jack said, stressing that his company takes safety seriously when working in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields.

Commission Chairman Howard Monroe posed several questions to Jack, including one about radioactivity at the site. Jack said all GreenHunter employees will wear radiation monitors while working in Wheeling.

“Everybody wants to claim ‘highly radioactive material.’ The fact is that we test this water,” Jack said.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the brine GreenHunter wants to recycle in Warwood can contain radioactive radium and radon.

However, Jack said these materials could also be found at the Wheeling Water Pollution Control Plant.

Monroe also asked about the potential for leaking trucks. Jack responded that any company that sends in a leaking truck will receive a citation from GreenHunter.

“If they cannot take care of their trucks, they will not do business with us,” Jack said.

GreenHunter also wants to, eventually, transport some of the waste by barge. Several federal agencies continue to review whether fracking waste can be shipped on inland waterways via barge. However, this matter is not currently up for consideration by the commission because GreenHunter does not yet have permission from the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies to do this.

Commissioners also delayed a vote on Wheeling Jesuit’s proposal to have an area of Washington Avenue re-zoned with the hope of building new housing for graduate students.

The Rev. James Fleming, who will officially become president of Wheeling Jesuit on July 1, now serves as the university’s executive vice president.

“We have 904 beds on campus. Every one of them is full,” he said in explaining the desire to build the new housing.

However, Washington Avenue resident Nicole Bracher-Musty was among several who expressed concerns regarding the project. She said WJU’s plan will create havoc for the residential area.

“This will be the tallest structure on the street,” she said. “I don’t see why Wheeling Jesuit needs to get into the business of being a landlord. They should stick to education.”

Multiple residents also expressed dismay about the condition of university-owned properties along Washington Avenue, which WJU wants to demolish to construct the new housing. Others complained the project could decrease property values in the area.

“We are going to have an increase in crime and traffic in our area” as a result of the project, Bracher-Musty speculated.