Frack waste loading dock permit challenged in court
MARTINS FERRY — A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that would allow a fracking waste loading facility to be constructed on the Ohio River in Martins Ferry is being challenged by an environmental group.
The Corps permit was requested March 30 by 4K Industrial “to construct a barge loading and off-loading waterfront facility. The facility will be receiving fluids from the Gas and Oil markets for processing, to reuse the fluids for drilling operations or to be sent to a disposal facility.”
People had until April 30 to submit comments or request a public hearing on the permit application. It was approved by the Army Corps in October.
The FreshWater Accountability Project, an environmental group concerned about the proposed permit, on Dec. 7 filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against the Army Corps, challenging the permit.
“The complaint is seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. No public hearing was held for this permit, violating several federal laws which require public notice and invite public comment. This complaint also highlighted the lack of sufficient environmental review to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements,” according to a release from the group.
“Rather than allow shipment of yet another potentially deadly product on the river, FreshWater believes the time is now to start cleaning up the river rather than exposing it to the hazardous release of radioactive isotopes and unknown chemicals on such a massive scale that barging would bring,” said Lea Harper, managing director of FreshWater Accountability Project.
“We see the agencies continuing to toss the responsibility to each other so that no one agency is accountable for bad decisions, which is what we consider this decision to be between the USACE and the (United States Coast Guard). We believe the (United States Environmental Protection Agency) should be looking into this decision to barge frack waste on such an important drinking water source, especially because of the radioactive and proprietary elements involved, and the fact that it will encourage more toxic frack waste processing plants to proliferate along the river.
Policy decisions like this one to allow barging of frack waste have been shown to create more long-term harm than short-term good, so we do not see the public benefit at all.”
Andrew Byrne, Public Affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, said 4K’s permit has been approved.
“Permit No. 2020-78 was issued to 4K Industrial Park LLC on Oct. 1, 2020, and a lawsuit was filed on Dec. 7 challenging the permit. As the matter is now pending litigation in federal court, all inquiries should be referred to the Department of Justice. Due to the litigation, we cannot comment on any permit details, but we complied with the law and our regulations in issuing the permit in question. We followed our processes, to include soliciting and considering public comments, and acted appropriately within the scope of our authority in carrying out our mission under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act,” he said. “According to our regulatory department, 4K Industrial Park LLC is authorized to construct the structures, in the Ohio River, consistent with the terms and conditions of Permit No. 2020-78.”
4K Industrial officials could not be reached for comment. 4K Industrial is owned by the Mull Group of Wheeling. According to the company’s website, “4K Advanced Technologies is capable of producing water quality ranging from maximum removal, to mutually agreed to levels designed to meet your strict water quality standards and cost requirements.”
Anthony Chenault, Ohio EPA spokesman, said the Ohio EPA has not received an application for a water quality certification related to 4K Industrial’s filing with the Army Corps of Engineers.
“A 401 Water Quality Certification is a state certification that must accompany a 404 federal Permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be valid in the state of Ohio. The ACOE indicated that this type of federal permit was not required for this project, therefore the state certification is not required,” he said.
Ben Hunkler of Concerned Ohio River Residents said, “USACE has categorically ignored overwhelming public opposition to the barge dock facilities in question. Local residents fear the potentially catastrophic consequences of transporting and processing hazardous, radioactive waste along the Ohio River, yet our concerns are neither heard nor addressed.”
Robin Blakeman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition added, “We applaud the work of our allies who filed these important legal actions. We believe that the three proposed oil and gas barge docks in the Ohio River Valley will bring a large increase in oil and gas waste to our region. The toxic and radioactive components of oil and gas waste could be a serious emerging source of pollution for the River — which is the tap water source for 5 million United States citizens. The vast externalized cost of doing business for the oil and gas industry continues to amount to increasing health costs and risks to our ecosystem, and it is a shame that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not taking the expressed concerns of citizens about these critical issues seriously.”
Freshwater on Dec. 2 also filed another, separate complaint against the Corps for permitting an existing barge facility “to bring massive amounts of radioactive frack waste to the Deep Rock injection well located across State Route 7 near Marietta, Ohio.”
That complaint claims a public hearing on the matter was “deficient” and “excluded full participation for concerned citizens who questioned the public benefits of barging oil and gas waste.”
“This would include large quantities of frack waste — one report sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard estimated 60,000 barrels a week — which is known to contain radioactive elements and unknown chemicals kept secret by the industry,” Freshwater claims.