Residents encouraged to comment

MARIETTA – The comment period for the permit of a fracking barge facility to be built in Meigs County by GreenHunter Water has been extended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until Aug. 24.

Comments from concerned residents about the proposed facility along the Ohio River had been received since June, totaling 340 in the initial comment period. The facility would be located near Portland in Meigs County. It would have a barge dock and also have the capabilities of storing myriad materials, including brine fluid.

The first comment phase closed at the end of July, but was extended after many comments were received and there was a request from the Athens County Fracking Action Network. The network has been urging residents and concerned citizens to write comments to the Corps of Engineers, stating how hazardous it could be to move fracking brine on and store it so close to the Ohio River.

Teresa Spagna, regulatory project manager in the North Branch of the Regulatory Division for the Corps of Engineers, said so far about 400 comments have been received for the permit overall.

“We are encouraging people to send comments, even if they already did, with more details about why this is such a disastrous proposal,” said Heather Cantino, a fracking network steering committee member with ACFAN.

While the permit for the engineers lists “unloading of bulk liquids generated by hydraulic fracturing” as what could be stored, John Jack, vice president of business development for GreenHunter, said the storage could be for many things.

“It doesn’t specifically say what kind of material,” he said. “We could be moving frack sand. (It) could be used for (many) different things. If, in fact, we choose to use the facility to store brine fluid, we will take all necessary precautions that (the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) makes necessary.”

Jack said the tanks at the facility will be new and will have containment to help prevent any type of spill.

Cantino said the recent fracking disasters like a fire in Monroe County that resulted in fish kill, should be a stark warning about fracking.

“(The Monroe County incident) is very similar to the kind of situation that could happen at a dock barge. (Fracking materials) are highly explosive and flammable,” she said. “The radioactivity and mixtures of chemicals can make chemicals more potent. (The mixture can create) synergistic chemicals, where the mixture is more toxic than individual chemicals on their own.”

Jack said concerned residents are always welcome to look at data taken from brine used in the fracking process that GreenHunter transports and stores.

“The fact is, this is a nonhazardous material,” he said. “They say we have highly toxic and radioactive material; we’re not seeing it. We test for (those materials). Absolutely, I welcome them to take a look at our analyticals we have. I don’t know what to do to be more transparent.”

The extended comment phase ends Aug. 24, after which Spagna said all comments would be gathered and looked over in detail. Comments gathered, either in favor or opposition of the permit, are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors.

Cantino said the goal of ACFAN is for the permit to be denied.

“We want (the Corps of Engineers) to reject the proposal for not being in the public interest and not serving the public good,” she said. “The detriments far outweigh any benefits; there are no benefits to (citizens in) Ohio.”

If a public meeting is found to be needed, Spagna said notices would be sent out 30 days prior to the meeting. There is no time frame for determining the outcome of the permit.

Jack said the hope is for the site of the barge dock to spur more activity in the Portland area, which sits across from Ravenswood.

“Before we (started looking there) it was designated to be developed as an industrial park,” he said. “Hopefully it will encourage additional development in that area.”

One thing Jack said should be considered is the safety of moving materials via the water instead of a truck.

“From a safety standpoint, it’s a lot safer moving (materials including brine) via our inland waterways than by truck,” he said. “It’s all a part of our plan to remove (brine) trucks from the road and cut down on wear and tear (on our roadways). We want to increase safety and environmental compliance from emissions down to public perception.”