By Jeanne Starmack
A company that wants to build a water-remediation plant in the brownfields along the Mahoning River sees itself as a solution, not an addition, to shale-drilling concerns.
ESI Enviro LLC representatives told about 50 people from the city and other communities Wednesday evening that they will be able to absorb toxins from hydraulic fracturing fluid, recycle them or dispose of them at an approved site, and resell the clean water back to drillers who are fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The company will clean fracking fluid by using Osorb, which consists of glass particles that swell up to 14 times their size.
Osorb’s developer, ABS Materials of Wooster, says the material is absorptive and hydrophobic. That makes it ideal for removing volatile organic compounds and other contaminants from water, according to company literature.
Fracking fluid is a mixture of water, sand, salt and chemicals. Gas companies drill vertically, then horizontally for up to a mile before forcing fracking fluid at high pressure into the shale to fracture it and release the natural gas. Millions of gallons are used to frack just one well. Some of the fracking fluid remains in the ground, but much comes back to the surface, where disposal is a problem. Pennsylvania asked drillers to stop dumping fracking fluid into surface water in 2011.
The fluid is disposed of at high pressure into deep injection wells. One of those wells off Salt Springs Road in Youngstown was linked to a series of small earthquakes in the area, including a 4.0 Dec. 31.
The company will build on 15 acres of city-owned property near the new bridge on Bob Cene Way. Nearby will be two injection wells, said company president Pierre Bourgeix.
Unlike the well in Youngstown, those wells will be shallower. Cleaned water that hasn’t been sold will be stored in them at low pressure, he said.
Questions at the public hearing ranged from what will happen to toxins once they are cleaned out of the water to how truck traffic would affect roads.
“If need be, we’d take the solids off site,” said Jim Kueber,” ESI vice president.
“We can clean them on-site or dump them at a pre-approved facility,” said Bourgeix. “The key component is clean water,” he said.
“You are greatly concentrating the pollutants into a small body,” Kueber said, adding that a quart of contaminants will be all that remains from millions of gallons of water.
Recycled water is conservation, Bourgeix said, because it eliminates the need for more fresh water in drilling. Companies will have an incentive to buy the recycled water because of ESI’s nearby location, he said.
“When we clean it we can get it to sites immediately,” Bourgeix said, instead of companies having to truck it from a location such as Lake Erie.
Bourgeix also said the company wants to locate in Campbell because it has a lot of railroad access. He said the company would carefully plan truck routes, but hopes to use more rail.
The company is investing $5.5 million into its plant and has not asked for tax abatements, said company spokesman Robert Carcelli.
The company will provide 16 jobs that pay $75,000 a year or more to start, said George Levendis, city council president.
The company will also pay the city 33 cents per gallon of water it treats, with up to 120,000 gallons a day as a starting point, he said.
The plant would be the first of its kind in Ohio, company representatives said. ESI has other offices throughout the country, with its headquarters in Cleveland.
City council will vote on whether to give the land, former Sheet and Tube property, to the company.