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Mayor still waiting to tour frack waste recycling facility

MARTINS FERRY — City officials still hope to receive a tour of the Austin Master Services frack wastewater recycling facility.

Mayor John Davies said he still is waiting to hear back from officials at the plant that recently prompted a couple Bridgeport-area residents to voice concern because of what is processed there. Bridgeport buys drinking water from the city.

During a recent Martins Ferry City Council meeting, Bridgeport resident Bev Reed said she was concerned about radioactivity in the waste being processed at the plant and it potentially leaching into the water table.

Though Davies told Reed it would be unlikely to reach the aquifer used by the city for drinking water, Reed asked the city to contact the Ohio Department of Environmental Protection about testing the city water more frequently for radium.

“It is tested for radium by the EPA,” Davies said. “The last test was 0.55 (picoCuries per liter) and you’re allowed 5.0 (pCi/L).”

Davies said he was not sure of OEPA’s guidelines regarding tests for radium, but added that “they are here frequently.”

Meanwhile, the city water employees are required to monitor the drinking water every day.

“We test our water daily, and it is 100 percent safe to drink,” he said.

Austin Master Services is located in the industrial park area of the city on First Street.

There are other businesses there along with Martins Ferry’s high school football stadium. Reed pointed this out during the recent council meeting.

She noted she was concerned about the impact a fire at the plant would have on the city’s water treatment plant, which also is located along First Street and along the Ohio River.

Austin Master Services opened in the city in 2015. It processes waste created by the natural gas drilling method called “fracking” of the shale in the area. The “fracking” process itself uses water, chemicals and sand, but what is also released is the naturally occurring radioactive active materials found in the shale — in the form of uranium, radium and plutonium.

Waste processed at the Austin Master facility is shipped to landfills. If it is deemed too radioactive after processing, it is then shipped to an underground facility in Utah.

An Austin Master employee said Monday that the company had no comment for this report.

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