Vote tabled on Hanover tank farm

February 20, 2014
Benjamin Stout, standing, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, cited research on the potential health risks of being exposed to frack water during a public hearing at Hanover Township’s municipal building Thursday. The hearing was concerning a proposed frack water tank farm. - Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

FLORENCE – Hanover Township residents were fired up Thursday night. The packed room inside the municipal building erupted in applause, whoops and “Amens” as one resident after another decried a proposed frack water tank farm that would be constructed near several homes and the township park. None publicly spoke in favor of the facility.

It was the second public hearing since the beginning of the year regarding a site application by Hydro Recovery LP, a Blossburg-based company that treats and recycles water used in the hydraulic fracturing process. The company wants to construct six double containment tanks and over 14,000 square feet of treatment buildings on 20 acres of industrial-zoned land between Old Steubenville Pike and Route 22 in Florence.

The half-dozen residents who gave public testimony said the facility would be too close for comfort. Residents demanded Hydro Recovery consider available land in the Starpointe industrial park, where the facility would be farther from residential homes.

David Hedrick, vice president of site development for Hydro Recovery, said the open spot at Starpointe would cost the company about $2 million more than the Florence site, because it would require more extensive earthwork. He said residents’ concerns about truck traffic would not necessarily be alleviated because the company also would need to access the Starpointe site from Old Steubenville Pike. However, Hedrick said the company is still communicating with Starpointe planners and keeping their options open.

Township supervisors Herb Grubbs, Kevin Lemmi and Dave Duerr silently listened to all public comments and ultimately tabled a vote on the proposed facility.

Many residents in attendance expressed concerns about the potential health risks associated with frack water and diesel fumes.

Benjamin Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, had been invited to the hearing by resident Pam Chappell. Stout cited environmental research regarding recycled frack water that had been dumped into Wheeling’s wastewater treatment plant. He said tests showed that the “hazardous waste” killed microbial cultures that digest sewage, which consequently made workers sick.

“One of the trucks was (carrying) 5,000 gallons of pH 1.5 water … (which) will burn the skin off your bones,” Stout said, adding that if there were a frack water spill, first responders would be at risk of permanent respiratory damage and major organ failure.

“It’s my responsibility as a professor that’s not involved in the industry … to make sure this public knows what they’re dealing with,” he said.

Hedrick disagreed with Stout and others who said Hydro Recovery’s water storage facility would come with its share of health risks.

“Our operations don’t pose any health concern,” Hedrick said. “We’re an environmental company. We recycle. It’s zero liquid discharge, so everything is recycled.”

Also in attendance at the public hearing was a Hickory resident who compared Hanover Township’s predicament to Mt. Pleasant Township, which currently has several impoundments and recently approved the use of a tank farm. Jane Worthington said Marcellus Shale workers have been kind and courteous, yet she criticized the industry “for turning Pennsylvania into a dumping grounds.”

“I believe that they belong in their place,” said Worthington, who was applauded for saying that Hydro Recovery’s facility should be located in the industrial park. “This has become desire versus appropriateness. This land (in Florence), they desire, but it is not appropriate. The land in the industrial park is appropriate, but they do not desire it. That’s where we need to meet.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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