By Karl Henkel
A Trumbull County judge rejected a request made by Patriot Water Treatment LLC and the city of Warren for a temporary restraining order against the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Judge Andrew Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court did, however, leave the door open for another request, for a preliminary injunction, which if enacted would once again stave off the closure of Ohio’s lone brine-waste-water treatment plant.
“We were told the [OEPA] director was going to issue the permit on Thursday,” said Andrew Blocksom, president of Patriot. “We want to have our right before the court to have our voices heard.”
Patriot will get that chance at 1:30 p.m. March 21.
In the motion filed Monday, Patriot and Warren allege injunctive relief is necessary to “prevent irreparable harm from occurring based on [Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s] stated intention to act outside its scope of authority and prevent Warren from accepting certain pretreated ‘light water.’”
OEPA did not respond to multiple requests to comment late Monday afternoon.
OEPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have tried for months to shut down Patriot, either by revoking its permit or altering the city’s permit to restrict which fluids are acceptable for treatment.
ODNR regulates brine, or fracking wastewater. The OEPA originally granted Patriot permits in 2009 but a short time later realized jurisdiction should have fallen to ODNR.
Emails acquired by The Vindicator show that ODNR approved the permits.
The state has continuously referenced an Ohio law stating that brine is any liquid produced from natural gas and oil exploration.
Brine, under Ohio law, can be disposed of by injection well, on roads as dust and ice control and any method approved by the ODNR chief.
Those in the brine industry say, however, there is a fundamental difference between brine and another fluid — “flowback water.”
Brine is salty — sometimes 10 times saltier than seawater — and high in total dissolved solids, or TDS.
TDS is like mixing a teaspoon of salt into a cup of water; the salt will dissolve.
Flowback water is much less salty — sometimes as salty as seawater — but higher in total suspended solids, or TSS.
TSS is like mixing a teaspoon of sand into a cup of water; the sand will not dissolve.
Patriot seeks to take flowback water, press out the TSS, filter and dilute the water, and then send it to Warren’s wastewater treatment plant.
The state finds no distinction between the two fluids.