Settlement with Patriot Water might be end of gas and oil wastewater treatment in city
Water plant remains open as suit lingers
Though a lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the company Patriot Water is still pending, the recent settlement by Warren would suggest Patriot’s experiment in treating wastewater from the gas and oil industry and have it end up in the Mahoning River might be over.
An attorney for Freshwater Accountability Project of Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Warren Law Director Greg Hicks say Warren resolved its part of the case by agreeing to pay $116,616 of Freshwater’s legal fees and no longer allowing Patriot to discharge “drilling mud,” which is wastewater from the gas and oil industry, into the city sewer system, as it did starting in 2011.
Patriot, which is located on Sferra Avenue in the Warren Industrial Park, stopped discharging wastewater into Warren sewers June 16, 2017, after the Freshwater suit was filed June 27, 2017, and has not resumed.
The plant is still open, however, its president, Andrew Blocksom, said earlier this month. Blocksom said he could not comment on the matter because legal action with Freshwater Accountability is still pending.
Hicks said he does not believe Patriot will ever be able to resume discharging gas and oil wastewater into Warren’s treatment facility.
Atty. Megan Hunter of Akron, who represents Freshwater, said the settlement with Warren bars the city from accepting total dissolved solids, total suspended solids and barium from Patriot above a certain limit.
That effectively stops the city’s wastewater treatment plant from receiving drilling muds, which were causing significant problems for the treatment plant.
The plant was not equipped to treat wastewater with total dissolved solids and total suspended solids in those quantities, Hunter said.
By failing to treat those wastewaters effectively, the city violated its U.S. Clean Water Act permit regarding water it discharged into the Mahoning River.
One of the violations was radioactivity “known to be in oil and gas waste” it discharged into the river, Hunter said.
“Our client’s position is that Patriot wastewater was causing Warren to violate its own Clean Water Act permit,” Hunter said.
The Freshwater Accountability Facebook page explains the reason the group spends money to intervene in matters regulated by the government.
“FWAP knows that government and industry cannot be trusted to protect our freshwater resources without an active and engaged populace keeping an eye on them, and when necessary, taking legal action to protect our resources.”
It adds, “FWAP keeps an active eye on industries impacting freshwater resources in Ohio and the agencies charged with regulating them.”
Hunter said Patriot “had not been held accountable for the [water] damage that was done, and Warren was not placing limits on Patriot sufficiently to protect the treatment plant and protect the water in the Mahoning River.”
She said the Clean Water Act allows citizens to intervene if they see a violation of environmental law, noting that the EPA has “wide latitude” in how it enforces environmental laws.
“For whatever reason the EPA chose not to enforce a regulation,” she said.
Patriot and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have battled each other in various courts since 2012, after the OEPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources tried to shut down Patriot despite the Ohio EPA having granted Patriot a permit to install its plant in 2010.
Photo credit: Jack Pearce (CC BY-SA 2.0)