Wheeling officials are right to exercise caution over GreenHunter Water's proposal to build a frack water recycling plant in Warwood. But they should keep an open mind until they hear the company's pitch, expected to take place this week.
GreenHunter Water owns the former Seidler's Oil Service site on North 28th Street. The company plans a $1.7 million renovation there that would turn the existing building into a frack water recycling station. The project would create about a dozen permanent jobs.
The company also owns docks along the Ohio River, which they plan to use to ship the waste via barge to Ohio for disposal.
Frack water trucked to the recycling center would be offloaded into storage tanks, with a process taking place to separate salt and other waste - some of it potentially carcinogenic - from the frack water. The recycled water would then be put back into use for the next fracking operation, while the waste would be stored in barrels and shipped out of the area for disposal.
The project sounds good - everyone can agree that our area is in need of jobs - but there are legitimate concerns. First, the U.S. Coast Guard has yet to rule if fracking waste can be transported on the nation's waterways. Second, it appears from the city's zoning map that GreenHunter would need a variance to be able to cross the Wheeling Heritage Trail to access the docks. And third, the recycling plant would be located about a mile north of Wheeling's Water Treatment Plant.
Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, who represents the Warwood section, cited the city's water supply and said she will work to stop the plant's construction.
"There could be a leak. There could be a truck accident. Then, who knows what could end up in our water supply," she said. "I just don't think this is a good idea."
Wheeling Jesuit University professor Ben Stout also has concerns about the plant, noting recycled frack water discharged several years ago into Wheeling Creek nearly devastated the city's Water Pollution Control Plant.
Those are valid concerns, but we again urge city leaders to go into this week's meeting with an open mind. Only then can they objectively decide if a frack water recycling plant is a good fit for Wheeling.