Many serious questions remain on proposed GreenHunter facility

Having observed the presentation made by GreenHunter for a forum hosted by Wheeling City Council last week, I urge council to forestall the company’s plan to build its high impact plant in the heart of our community. Although the corporately produced PowerPoint was slick and spokesperson John Jack’s enthusiasm real, there remain many questions.

Mr. Jack spent a lot of time explaining how the facility will ship fracking wastewater by barge instead of truck and how that reduces truck traffic. This may be true for truck mileage nationwide but could not be true for traffic in and out of greater Wheeling neighborhoods, especially, of course, Warwood where traffic would increase dramatically.

GreenHunter spokespersons were also eager to dismiss concerns about the chemicals to be trucked in and out of their facility. We were assured it would mostly be water, that chemical “additives” amounted to a small percentage and then showed a diagram implying these were common chemicals found in everyday household products. What was not said is that the totals of the diagram for these items only added up to about half of the earlier percentage. Regardless of the exact, seemingly small amounts, what gets forgotten when such numbers are used is that the smallest percentages of certain chemicals can be extremely dangerous if not bound together with the right arrangement of other chemicals. For the community and council to be reassured then each chemical and its exact percent needs precisely named especially since the facility is to sit upstream from Wheeling’s water plant.

Though the issue was brought up several times, there remain concerns that no one, including GreenHunter, really understands what liability issues could develop and whose responsibility they would be. If they were to become the City of Wheeling’s, that is, clearly, a critical concern. This is not a matter of whether GreenHunter wishes their facility to be safe – I’m sure they want safety but the question remains “what if …” for accidents usually do happen.

These are critical areas of concern which should make City Council draw back and seek more information than available last Wednesday.

Other questions remain regarding “environmental impact studies” which I understood had yet to be specified. Surely there is a need to have such matters addressed before building proceeds. It was also explained that the actual go-ahead for barge transport of wastewater could only be granted by the Coast Guard but GreenHunter will go ahead and build the first stage of their plant even before such a go-ahead is granted. This should make us ask why the rush? Which, as I look over the serious gaps in information from this meeting, is a real question. It is the question that’s been asked from the beginning when GreenHunter neglected the courtesy of first contacting appropriate city officials and other community representatives this past winter. What is the rush? And, if everything is to be so good about this plant, why do so many serious questions remain?

Marc Harshman