(Akron, OH) Yesterday the centralized waste treatment plant owned and operated by Patriot Water Treatment LLC and the city of Warren’s publicly-owned wastewater treatment plant in Trumbull County were sued by the FreshWater Accountability Project (www.FWAP.org) for significant and ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act. Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services (www.fairshake-els.org) brought the lawsuit on behalf of FreshWater Accountability Project through the Citizen Suit provision of the Clean Water Act that allows “any citizen” to “commence a civil action on his own behalf…against any person…who is alleged to be in violation of (A) an effluent standard or limitation under ⦋the Act⦌ or (B) an order issued by the Administrator or a State with respect to such a standard or limitation.”

The suit alleges Patriot has violated the Clean Water Act by exceeding the pretreatment standards and reporting requirements in its industrial user permit, the city of Warren’s ordinances, and Patriot’s Ohio EPA-issued permits-to-install. It also alleges the Warren Water Pollution Control facility has violated the Clean Water Act by exceeding the discharge limitations contained in its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In addition, the Water Pollution Control facility is charged with violating control mechanism requirements contained in the NPDES permit.

The characteristics of the waste accepted for pretreatment by the Patriot Water Treatment facility include waste from horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) known to contain high levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and other toxic and radioactive materials associated with the process. From the initial operation of the Patriot facility, which discharges through storm sewers into the Warren Pollution Control Division, there were study requirements to characterize the waste being processed which were not carried out to protect public health and safety. Specifically, the Ohio Department of Health was requested to give a regulatory opinion regarding the radiological impact of processing oil and gas wastewaters through Warren’s wastewater treatment plant into the Mahoning River. Through a public records request, it appears that this important study was never completed because of Warren’s failure to provide requested and necessary analyses. As a result, and due to the lack of ongoing monitoring of the toxic and radioactive components of oil and gas waste, the bio-cumulative impact of the lack of adequate characterization of the waste initially as well as inadequate ongoing monitoring the ultimate discharge of the waste from Patriot can potentially create environmental and human health impacts for those who recreate and reside near the Mahoning River in Ohio. Additionally, the Mahoning River is a drinking water source for nearby communities in Pennsylvania, as well as a tributary to the Ohio River, which is a drinking water source for over three million people.

Public records revealed permit requirements for Zinc, Molybdenum, Aluminum and Chemical Oxygen Demand as well as Total Suspended Solids and Total Dissolved Solids were greatly exceeded, in some cases as much as fifty times the allowable limits.

“When this frack waste processing scheme was first proposed, we had many questions and objected to it from the onset to the manager of the Warren Water Pollution Control Division at the time, Tom Angelo,” stated Lea Harper, Managing Director of FreshWater Accountability Project. “In many cases, we as a small grassroots organization have flagged these ill-fated waste processing schemes and gone above and beyond to compensate for what our representatives and regulators are ignoring. Now the lack of oversight and regulations are causing impending crises to public health because of the degradation of our clean air and water, as has been evidenced by the recent violations issued by the OEPA and the City of Warren due to toxic air releases associated with Patriot.”

The lawsuit can be accessed at https://fwap.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Time-Stamped-FWAP-v.-Patriot-Water-Treatment-et-al.-Complaint.pdf