In continued protest of the GreenHunter Water natural gas frack water plant for Warwood, the "Wheeling Water Warriors" will participate in the Great Ohio River Relay.
"Clean water is essential to all life on our planet. I believe that of the possible disaster scenarios, loss of clean water is the one that most dangerously affects our very existence," said Elise Smith of Warwood.
The relay starts at the beginning of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh on Sept. 14. From there, the relay baton will be carried through six states to the end of the river in Cairo, Ill. with the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of water resources, according to event organizers. Those carrying the baton may walk, run, bike, rollerblade, canoe, kayak or use any other human powered means of transportation.
On Sept. 15, there will be a rally celebrating the baton at Warwood Garden Park. Scheduled speakers for the rally include Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Ben Stout; Yuri Gorby, Howard A. Blitman Chair for Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and former Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields.
Last month, members of the Wheeling Planning Commission voted 4-1 to allow GreenHunter to proceed with its project at North 28th Street. Commissioners Barry Crow, Thomas McCulloch, Don Atkinson and Russell Jebbia vote to approve the plant, while Commissioner John Clarke voted against it. Commissioner Michael Leo recused himself from voting, citing a conflict of interest. Commissioner James Mauck - serving in the role of chairman due to the absence of regular Chairman Howard Monroe - did not vote, as the chairman normally only votes to break a tie.
John Jack, vice president of business development and operations for GreenHunter, said GreenHunter could have the center up and running as early as October, noting the company has been ready to build for several months.
However, the Planning Commission only approved "Phase 1" of the GreenHunter project, which does not include the barging portion of the recycling plant. Jack said he will return to the commission when GreenHunter elects to proceed with the barging aspect, which he now believes could be sooner than later.
Jack said there is a pipeline leading from the main GreenHunter site to the area in which barges will load. He estimates only one loaded vessel will leave the Warwood dock each week.
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 believes he is close to receiving the approval to move forward with this aspect of the Warwood plant.
Tom Connelly, assistant director of the Wheeling Economic and Community Development Department, believes GreenHunter would also need a zone change to use the docks extending out into the Ohio River from the former Seidler's Oil site.
Connelly said the Wheeling Heritage Trail and these docks are now zoned for residential use, rather than industrial use. However, Jack disagrees that a zone change is needed.