Patriot and ODNR face off
By Jamison Cocklin
Patriot Water Treatment has sent legal notice to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources warning it of unwarranted interference in its business operations.
The company, 2840 Sferra Ave., learned Friday that the agency would not allow the facility to accept drilling waste from D&L Energy headquarters at 2761 Salt Springs Road, the site of last month’s illegal dumping of oil and brine down a storm drain. In the wake of an ongoing criminal investigation, the permits of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating were revoked, with the stipulation that drilling waste could no longer be stored at the companies’ headquarters.
Patriot’s president, Andrew Blocksom, had told The Vindicator earlier that his wastewater-treatment facility had tested the drilling fluids and was set to begin accepting, treating and disposing of it in the Mahoning River.
It appears now that ODNR, whose offices were closed Monday for Presidents Day, has stymied those efforts by ordering D&L officials to instead dispose of the drilling waste in Class II injection wells only.
But in a letter to both ODNR Chief Counsel William Damschroder and Richard Simmers, chief of ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, both Blocksom and his attorney, April R. Bott, contend that doing so would pose grave environmental risks that also could lead to additional seismic activity at the site of the disposal.
“I also learned from the state that some of the materials on D&L’s site have tested extremely high and over regulatory limits by orders of magnitude, for radioactivity [specifically radium],” Blocksom wrote to Damschroder.
The letter continued to say, “None of these hot materials have been sent to Patriot, which has state-of-the-art testing equipment, so I am extremely concerned that ODNR is instructing this material be injected into Class II injection wells without notification to the well operators that radioactive waste is involved.”
Throughout last year, a long-running dispute played out between Patriot and ODNR after the regulatory agency said that Patriot’s operations were harmful to the state’s waters. Patriots operations were shut down last April for three months, leading the company to file a lawsuit against ODNR.
Patriot claims that ODNR has no right to interfere in its business operations, as the agency has provided no evidence that proves its treatment processes fail to remove toxins or other harmful substances from drilling waste.
ODNR could not be reached to comment Monday.
Furthermore, Blocksom has continued to maintain that most of the drilling fluid on D&L’s property is primarily comprised of light-low salinity waters. Unlike heavier brine, light-low salinity waters take longer to sink to the bottom of injection wells, requiring ODNR to issue pressure variances so that operators can force the liquid down a well shaft. A strong link has been made between this tactic and seismic activity.
ODNR granted D&L multiple pressure variances to force similar light waste down its Northstar 1 injection well in Youngstown, which was later determined to be the cause of a series of earthquakes on New Year’s Eve 2011.
“ODNR’s actions today leave D&L, a company under intense regulatory pressure, with no option but to inappropriately push the low-TDS wastewaters into underground injection wells under high pressures and pay ODNR — the business competitor of Patriot — an injection fee,” Bott wrote ODNR.