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OEPA urged to rethink Warren permit proposal

Published: Fri, January 13, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

new regulations could impact valley economy



By Karl Henkel



Area residents, business representatives and legislators are warning the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that new regulations would be detrimental to the Mahoning Valley economy.

“This is a matter of life and industrial death,” said state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, at an OEPA public hearing Thursday at Warren G. Harding High School.

The hearing, used to gather comments from area residents regarding a new Warren waste treatment plant permit that could spell doom for Patriot Water Treatment LLC and hamper other local businesses, became an open forum to lobby the OEPA to reconsider its proposal.

Patriot is the state’s lone brine treatment plant.

Brine is a byproduct of natural gas and oil drilling, sometimes known as fracking, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground.

The OEPA last month issued a draft permit to Warren that, if enforced, would be the most stringent water-quality standards in the state, said Tom Angelo, city water pollution control director. The permit would take effect next month, if approved.

The OEPA wants Warren to comply with a standard of 622 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids, or salts, well below the state standard of 1,500 milligrams per liter.

Warren currently disposes water into the Mahoning River at about 809 milligrams per liter.

The state does not regularly patrol TDS levels.

The standard is more of a recommendation, said Angelo, who described the result of the proposed permit as “cold and scary” for the region.

Angelo said a permit as restrictive as what the OEPA is proposing would hamper some local businesses, which contribute moderate levels of TDS to the water system.

General Motors Lordstown, Delphi Packard and the Association of Metropolitan Wastewater Agency all crafted letters to the OEPA opposing the proposed permit.

If Patriot closes, 20 employees would lose their jobs.

One of those employees is Luciano Vennitti, who was unemployed before he took a job at Patriot last year.

“They gave me more than a job,” he said. “They gave me my dignity back.”

It also could mean a wasted investment for Patriot, which spent $3 million on a state-of-the-art facility on Sferra Drive, according to company President Andy Blocksom.

The OEPA has tried to revoke and argue against a renewal of Patriot’s operational and brine permits — separate from Warren’s permit — but was shuttered by the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, which hears and resolves environmental appeals.

Since the denial, the OEPA has taken a different approach.

According to the Ohio Administrative Code, there is one avenue in which the OEPA — specifically Director Scott Nally — could revoke or decide not to renew the permits.

If water standards don’t meet the needs of nearby states, in this instance, Pennsylvania via the Mahoning River, then Nally has a legal leg to stand on.

Nally did not attend Thursday’s hearing, and the OEPA did not send a representative who could comment.

But many, including Angelo, said that formulating permits based on other state’s regulations will only hurt business in Ohio.

He said no other city in the state will be so restricted when it comes to TDS, and said other municipalities such as Elyria have received variances to exceed the state standard of 1,500 milligrams per liter for economic reasons.

Other residents came to Thursday’s meeting to voice their opinions about the environment and potential water contamination from the chemicals used in the natural gas and oil drilling process.

“My concern is that the water is becoming contaminated because of the chemicals in the fracking water,” said Carol Gottesman, a Liberty Township resident.

Blocksom says the brine that Patriot accepts is not the same as brine deposited into injection wells.

Brine’s chemical makeup — something Patriot has debated with state environmental regulators — differs depending on the water’s origin.

Most brine from fracking sites comes from deep beneath the Earth’s surface. It’s extremely salty — 300,000 milligrams of salt per liter, which is nearly 10 times the salinity of seawater.

That water, Blocksom says, is untreatable at his plant; he treats the small percentage of brine that is murky and contains dirt and metals. Its salinity level doesn’t exceed 50,000 milligrams per liter.


1webad(156 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

The geological damage that caused the quakes can't be undone. Fracking and all related activities must be stopped. Start retrofitting structures. Don't wait until buildings fall on heads. Gas companies set up shop on land in economically depressed areas. Such believe that the people are so hungry and mentally depressed that they will not be able to think rationally or defend themselves. Concentrate on the drinking water as well as the quakes. Stop bickering and join forces to rid the area of this scourge.

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Stop putting all that salt into our rivers and streams. Close down that illegal Patriot operation. A few jobs are not worth all the environmental damage the excess solids are causing.

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3ytownsteelman(674 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I thought that Kasich was going to bring some sanity to the Ohio EPA. Where the hell is he at a time like this?

Webad must think that California style quakes are in our future. Well that disqualifies him from making any intelligent remarks. Fearmongering and not understanding the issues. UnionForever is right up there with him. There is no environmental damage. This is about a proposed standard that is too stringent to realistically be complied with.

I am seeing a trend with the environmentalists to heavily favor environment over economy, to the point of willfully causing our 30 year depression to continue indefinately. It may only be 20 jobs at Patriot, but this affects Lordstown, RG Steel, V&M Star and others.

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4glbtactivist(298 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It's time to stop polluting the valley's only decent resource, the Mahoning River. Millions of people drink the water downstream. New Orleans has the highest rate of stomach cancer in the world. It is because of cheap business owners like the ones fighting these weak regulations and the officials who were bought out to fight for pollution. It is time to investigate if any of the officials were given gifts by Patriot Water.

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5Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Clean drinking water is priority number # 1. If someone wants to argue with that then they lack rational thinking.

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6XL(18 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It is time to shut down all of the polluters. Industry has polluted for far too many years. Farming activities in the Mahoning River watershed pollute with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, manure and soil erosion. Plowed fields pollute the river with silt when it rains and during snow melt. Drilling on farmland only compounds the problems. With the power of the OEPA our area is seeing the dawning of a new era and we will all have healthier lives in our future. Our elected have a duty to support the enforcement of the laws.

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7republicanRick(1542 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

The above comments were all offered by science illiterates. They are the rantings of the ill-informed acitivists who are scared of their shadows.

633 mg/l limit is nuts and has no basis in scientific fact. To propose this limit will drive EVERY industry and business out of this area.

For the EPA to propose this low of a limit shows that they are run by third graders or Dennis Kucinich.

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8cmullen(2 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Read the May 2011 article in Discover magazine entitled "Fracking Nation" for an overall view of fracking and injection wells throughout the US. It gives a lot of information about the Marcellus shale. We desperately need jobs in this area but we also need to be aware of the consequences to our environment and health.

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9JoeFromHubbard(1532 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It's called "Suicide by Regulation." There are innumerable jobs that have left this country because of excessive, unnecessary and stifling restrictions by governmental departments such as EPA. I firmly believe that the EPA was, albeit to a small degree, responsible for the demise of the steel industry in Youngstown.

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10Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Jessiedavid "But obviously those better ways of doing things for the environment are in the budding stages, which means we must deal with the here and now, and therefore, the OEPA should be acting reasonable toward the industries that are begging for a little lightening up on impossible OPEA standards." - - - -We put men on the moon over 42 years ago and we can't find better methods for fueling our economy , and or extracting and diposing/ recycling waste from that process? Man has split the atom allowing him to level cities over 66 years ago? Perhaps our priorities are wrong headed.

You don't put the cart before the horse.You don't charge up debt before you figure out how you will pay it off first.

You mention food and how long it takes to be shipped here.There is no sound reason it would take 150 mile trip to ship sweet corn to this mid western state -none.There is no sound reason we have to import apple juice from 3 different countries(labeled on on bottle) as far away as China.It is senseless.NAFTA was senseless.And it is senseless to pollute drinking water simply because the rich and powerful can or it would be too costly for them in their minds not to do so.If one values money over health then it makes perfect sense.

We have great potential but we need to be responsible too. How does one make the wealthy corporations act responsibly when they own so much power? It is nice to hop in our cars and drive - -agreed. Safe drinking water isn't just convenient or a luxury it is next to air the most precious commodity-it sustains life.A few days without it you aren't inconvenienced your dead.

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11Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

"I firmly believe that the EPA was, albeit to a small degree, responsible for the demise of the steel industry in Youngstown." - - -I worked on an oral history project in the early 1990s and one of the topics that came up was the closing of the steel mills .I'll tell you that government regulations were an excuse and not the reason they closed.There were members of board of the mills before the close of World War 11 that spoke about the need to modernize the mills.That wasn't the whole reason either it was planned by the corporations to move those mills over seas long before it happened.

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12JoeFromHubbard(1532 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

In the early 1960's, during summer employment at Sheet & Tube Briar Hill, I was surprised to find the blooming mill still powered by a steam engine. Rick Rowlands of Hubbard has since transplanted that engine to a location on Youngstown-Hubbard Road. It's use in the 60's was indicative of the reliance upon antiquated equipment and the weak underpinnings of the local steel industry. The EPA impositions were minor but measurable detriments to the survival of the old mills. Financials and logistics made it difficult to justify the continuation of Youngstown based operations.

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13Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

" Financials and logistics made it difficult to justify the continuation of Youngstown based operations." - - -From a purely business perspective cheaper labor markets were sought out .This was planned in advance which explains the non investment in modernizing the mills which were thought by many to be antiquated during the WW11.

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14JoeFromHubbard(1532 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Low labor cost has always been a business objective. After union demands put strong upward pressure on labor costs in the northern states, businesses shifted locus to the then largely nonunion South. Eventually even that wasn't sufficient and overseas locations became desirable. It's a constant search for low operating costs. This phenomenon is not limited to the United States. Today, we find places like Japan looking to other countries to lower the cost of their manufacturing.

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15Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Joe I here what you are saying but at one time we were the envy of the world.I don't blame the workers who wanted decent hours and decent pay. Coming out of the late 1800s and early 1900s was a workers nightmare.The rich were still wealthy after the unions.

Protectionism has been made to sound dirty today when in reality it is survival.There is nothing wrong with protecting you and yours.Our sell out politicians were paid to pass the garbage agreements that have killed our jobs. It is never perfect but times were better when we had a nation.

Ytown -I agree.

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16JoeFromHubbard(1532 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

To Bigben @ post19:
You're right about working conditions at the turn of the last century. The unions did a lot to improve that without overburdening employers. I've worked in the mills long after unions were established and there were still plenty of hazardous jobs in existence.

You mention "protectionism" which is indeed viewed by many as a "dirty word." At the beginning of the last century this country had a somewhat natural state of protection. We had an abundance of natural resources and the ability to send and receive large volumes of materials and finished products did not exist as it does today.

I hate to see what is happening to our domestic manufacturing. The government at all levels has done nothing to help the situation. It has done a lot to create a hostile business environment with high taxes and excessive regulations. The results are self evident.

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