It appears the battle between Patriot Water Treatment in Warren and state agencies is anything but finished.
Patriot had been able to operate for more than two months without any interference from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said Andrew Blocksom, company president.
Patriot treats lower-salt-content water generated from fracking, a process in which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into shale at a high pressure to release the gas trapped within the rock thousands of feet underground. The company does not handle the higher-salt-content brine that is disposed of through injection wells.
Patriot treats the water and then sends it to Warren’s municipal treatment facility, which makes sure it meets water-quality standards before discharging it.
Chris Abbruzzese, Ohio EPA communications director, said his office expects that all parties are honoring a July Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission decision.
The OEPA, however, disagreed with the city of Warren and Patriot on the meaning of the ERAC decision.
Warren and Patriot believed the ruling gives them the right to restart operations, while the OEPA says the city’s water treatment plant still cannot receive any brine from the company.
Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the ODNR, said the organization tried to send an inspector onto Patriot property Friday, but was denied entry.
“We’re examining all our legal options in this situation,” she said.
April Bott, the attorney for Patriot, denied the allegation and said no inspector tried to enter the property.
The only time ODNR sent an inspector to Patriot was a few weeks ago, Blocksom said. The inspector came into the office, talked to the manager and then left, he said.
Patriot cannot do anything about the state’s ability to enforce its changing regulations, Bott said.
“I would certainly hope they [ODNR] would respect the state and federally issued permits, the law and the court decision,” she said.
The entire political season has been about jobs, Bott said. Patriot currently employs 25 people.
“It sends a real unfortunate message for the state to keep going after this one little company that has done everything right,” she said.
The ODNR was involved in the previous court decision and had the opportunity to appeal, but didn’t, Bott said.
Late last week, it appeared things had been resolved with the state.
The situation appeared to have been resolved; the city can again make some revenue from the Patriot facility, said Doug Franklin, Warren mayor.
“More importantly these families [Patriot employees] that were being held up are no longer in limbo,” he said.
Patriot, under the terms of its permit, still has more water it can treat and the city still has more it can accept, Franklin said.
“From all the studies I’ve read, this is an environmentally positive process,” he said.
Oil and gas drilling is a water-intensive process, and there is a benefit to treating any water possible, Franklin said.