WHEELING - Whether they like it or not, many Warwood residents find themselves preparing for life with GreenHunter Water's natural gas frack water treatment facility in their neighborhood, following the Wheeling Planning Commission's approval last week of the company's site plan for the controversial facility.
But Warwood's representative on City Council, Gloria Delbrugge, has opposed the plant from the start, and she's not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
"Nothing's changed. I don't like them here. I don't want them here. Go somewhere else," she said.
Photo by Ian Hicks
The future site of GreenHunter Water’s natural gas frack water treatment facility in Warwood is shown.
Although the Planning Commission's approval of GreenHunter's site plan requires no action by council, Delbrugge believes she and her fellow council members could attempt to reverse the commission's decision by refusing to accept its report when it comes before them, likely sometime next month. But she admits she doesn't know what would happen next.
"When it comes to that ... of course I will say 'no,'" Delbrugge said. "I don't know how everyone else feels. ... Most of council doesn't have to live with it. I do."
The third-term councilwoman is also calling on the West Virginia Division of Highways to step in. She believes trucks exiting the facility - the former home of Seidler's Oil Service - from the narrow North 28th Street will have to veer into oncoming traffic to make the turn onto W.Va. 2.
"The (Division) of Highways has to be sure that (W.Va.) 2 is safe. ... That's going to be a dangerous situation ... ," Delbrugge said. "Maybe the DOH will make them build another road up further."
Don Thacker, a resident of North Park Terrace in Warwood, said he's not too worried about the GreenHunter plant.
"If it brings jobs, I think it's OK. ... Whatever man does, it pollutes. ... As long as (GreenHunter) can take care of it, I don't see any problem with it."
Chuck, a man who lives a few blocks away from the proposed plant site who declined to give his last name, is most worried about potential traffic problems. He's also skeptical as to whether the plant will create any jobs for Wheeling. But he doesn't see a whole lot that can be done about it.
"I see a lot of the neighbors on TV (protesting the plant). ... You just go with the flow. That's about all you can do," Chuck said.
Although many Warwood residents have vocally opposed the project - some banding together in a group calling itself the "Wheeling Water Warriors" - Delbrugge said she doesn't know of any residents who plan to attempt legal action to delay or stop construction of the plant, although she said she knows of at least one resident who has contacted the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. She also said she's talked with people who are considering moving away from Warwood if the plant is built.
The Planning Commission's 4-1 vote to approve GreenHunter's site plan came after the company provided missing information that had caused members to table the matter twice previously. That included documentation from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Department of Transportation showing that GreenHunter's project meets their guidelines. The commission also asked for documentation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission showing that the plant will not emit excessive amounts of radiation.
Commission member John Clarke cast the lone vote against site plan approval for GreenHunter, an action Delbrugge applauds.
"I thought, 'Good for him,' and my hat's off to him for doing that," she said.
Although she disagrees with the commission's decision, Delbrugge was happy to see them stand firm in their request for more information - something she's not sure GreenHunter was prepared for.
"They thought we were a bunch of yahoos.. ... We're not a bunch of yahoos," Delbrugge said. "You must obey our rules."
The Planning Commission vote cleared a major hurdle for GreenHunter, whose only remaining issue with the city - a zone change city officials believe GreenHunter needs to pipe fluid beneath Wheeling Heritage Trail, which is zoned residential - could be rendered moot if federal regulators forbid fracking waste from being shipped by barge on inland waterways.
GreenHunter officials would prefer to ship the material by barge, claiming it is safer and cheaper to do so, but have said they will truck the fluid from the Wheeling facility if necessary. Company leaders have repeatedly said their safeguards for spill containment meet all state and federal regulatory demands, and radioactivity - a major concern for many Warwood residents - will be minuscule in volume at the Warwood plant.