Residents continue fight against frack water recycler
FLORENCE, Pa. – More than 60 area residents attended a hearing Thursday on Blossburg, Pa.-based Hydro Recovery’s conditional use application, with many entering testimony reiterating their stance against the fracking water recycling facility proposed for Hanover Township.
The company is in negotiations with the Buncher Group to purchase a parcel located between U.S. Route 22 and Old Steubenville Pike, adjacent to the township park. The facility would remove undissolved solids and adjust the pH levels of fracking water and store it in six 2-million-gallon tanks, with the potential to expand to a total of 12 tanks. The water would later be re-used to frack natural gas wells. Max Environmental has proposed building a similar frack water recycling facility in nearby Slovan, Pa.
Dawn Paden, a local businesswoman and resident who has previously spoken against the facility, appealed to the supervisors to keep the facility from being built in what is effectively a residential area, despite the industrial zoning.
“Go to the industrial park,” she said. “We don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this behind our houses, in our backyards.”
Bob Treebs, Hanover Acres complex owner, also spoke about the residential character of the area and said the traffic would be detrimental, noting not only would the frack water trucks be going into the facility, but also coming back out.
“I’m a taxpayer of 18 years, and I think I have a voice,” he said. “The voices you need to listen to are the ones who have been here all of this time.”
Pam Chappell, who lives adjacent to the proposed site, spoke about her concerns that fumes from the facility would affect her health.
“If you don’t have your health, money won’t help you,” she said.
She has made arrangements to have monitors put into place on her property and threatened to sue Hydro Recovery should the monitors indicate fumes from the facility may affect her health.
Jane Worthington of Hickory spoke to the supervisors, noting that a leaking impoundment in Mount Pleasant Township is being converted to a similar tank farm and the Mount Pleasant Township Supervisors are embroiled in the court battle to repeal sections of Act 13, which would allow drilling within 300 feet of homes and schools and negate aspects of local zoning control in regards to the natural gas industry. In October, the Commonwealth Court struck down portions of the law, declaring them unconstitutional after several municipalities, including Mount Pleasant Township, challenged the law.
While praising the natural gas industry for the good it has done the area’s small businesses, schools and organizations, Worthington also cautioned the supervisors to err on the side of caution when protecting the area’s farm lands and tranquility.
“They (the natural gas industry) have taken us by storm, and they have taken us by surprise,” she said.
Once again, residents pressed the company to locate its facility in Starpointe Industrial Park. Mark Dumbovich, Hanover Township resident, said he welcomed the facility if it should go into the industrial park, citing concerns about safety and the long-term viability of the facility.
“We need to make some common sense of this,” he said. “We don’t want to turn them away, but they should go to the industrial park. The community elected you (the supervisors) to protect them. The community is saying protect us. Please vote for the ones who voted for you.”
Hedrick had previously said the facility would create 25 jobs, 175 short of federal requirements if the company were to build in Starpointe’s developed portion. The company wouldn’t need to meet that requirement in the undeveloped portion, but the cost wasn’t feasible. Additionally, township officials wouldn’t allow the company to use the park’s main entrance on Route 18, but would require Hydro Recovery traffic to enter from Old Steubenville Pike, still requiring the company’s truck traffic to travel through a residential section of the township.
Residents entering testimony discounted the additional costs for earthwork as negligible and the cost of doing business and being a good neighbor.
Hydro Recovery’s first choice would have been a location across from the Post Gazette Pavilion and adjacent to the industrial park, but a portion is zoned commercial and the township Zoning and Planning Commission declined the company’s request to re-zone the property, Hedrick said.
Residents also spoke about safety concerns, citing the Freedom Industries disaster in Charleston and explosions on trains carrying volatile chemicals. Residents questioned what would happen if there were a frack water spill. The facility would have a containment area equal to 110 percent of a single tank, but should a spill occur outside of the tank area, the exposed soil would be removed to a landfill and the surrounding pH levels checked to ensure there was no further pollution. The company would notify local first responders and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The fracking water is primarily brine, would kill vegetation and make people sick if it were consumed, but wouldn’t harm skin that was exposed to it.
At two prior meeting, including a Zoning and Planning Commission meeting and a Board of Supervisors meeting, residents primarily expressed concern about the truck traffic. David Hedrick, Hydro Recovery vice president of site development, estimated there would be approximately 150 to 250 frack water trucks arriving daily and another one to 10 dump trucks departing each day with filter cakes, containing extracted undissolved solids, bound for landfills in Tyler County, Columbiana County and Sommerset County. The company has filed for a low-volume Highway Occupancy Permit with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which applies to facilities generating traffic of less than 750 trucks per day. Residents also spoke about potential road deterioration, increased traffic, accidents, diesel fumes, interference with school bus routes, the use of jake brakes and noise and light pollution.
The supervisors have 45 days to present a written finding of fact regarding the application and vote on it. During the hearing, the supervisors noted it is unlikely that the presentation will occur before the next regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 20 at the township building located at 11 Municipal Road.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at email@example.com)