By Karl Henkel
Fracking fear has struck many in the Mahoning Valley, mostly due to possible water contamination.
So when residents see large tankers plastered with the painted word “brine” near a water source, it probably doesn’t help quell those fears.
But fear not, a local trucking company says.
Those trucks are extracting water — not dumping it — for use in the fracking process.
Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil. A byproduct of that process is brine, heavily salted water not intended for human contact or consumption.
Brine is disposed of though an injection well, where the liquid is pumped deep below the ground, on roads and streets for ice or dust control, or at a brine wastewater treatment plant.
But some horror stories — often coming from Pennsylvania — detail brine trucks dumping the salty fluids directly into lakes and streams, polluting the water and the surrounding environment.
In Coitsville, along South Hubbard Road, many residents became curious when a brine truck recently stopped and dropped a large hose into a nearby creek.
One resident even snapped a picture of the Ray Pander Trucking Inc. vehicle as potential evidence.
But Ray Pander himself told The Vindicator that the company was simply extracting water for drilling purposes in Hubbard, where some drillers have begun work on Clinton Sandstone wells.
“We get calls on this every day,” he said. “But we do not dispose of water into lakes and streams.”
The company only extracts the water.
State law stipulates that a company such as Ray Pander’s must get landowner consent to remove water from private property.
State law also stipulates that water on public land is available to anyone.
So why does the word brine still appear on trucks that extract fresh water?
That wasn’t always the case.
Pander said his trucks previously had placards — one that said brine and the other fresh water — that drivers could switch depending on the carried fluid.
But federal guidelines state that placards can appear only on vehicles transporting hazardous or flammable materials.
Pander has no choice: His multifaceted trucks must have brine permanently painted, in clear view.
Pander also said that his brine trucks have fallen victim to some against fracking. On one occasion, dissenters have even removed an extraction hose from a truck and dropped it into a river.
“It gets aggravating when you’re out there trying to do your job,” he said.