Martins Ferry Mayor: Austin Master did not flood


MARTINS FERRY — Flood water from the Ohio River did not infiltrate the Austin Master Services frack waste recycling facility on Thursday, according to Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies.

City leaders and area residents have been concerned about whether flood water could be contaminated with waste, some of which is radioactive, if it were to reach the plant. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost took legal action against Austin Master last week, citing “egregious violations of Ohio law” regarding storage of oil and gas waste. His complaint, filed in Belmont County Common Pleas Court, states the waste is a threat to the Ohio River and to Martins Ferry’s drinking water supply.

The complaint also states that the company is failing to store waste from fracking operations properly at its facility located at 801 N. First St. in Martins Ferry, which is approximately 500 feet from the Ohio River and about 1,000 feet from the city’s drinking water well field.

During a city council meeting last week, Davies reported that the facility is “locked down” with security staff on site.

“They took an excessive amount of debris in … at this point 10,000 tons too much, which is way past their permit, outside the original containment into the secondary containment,” Davies said of the facility.

On Thursday, the Ohio River crested at nearly 42 feet at Wheeling in the wake of strong storms that brought more than 4 inches of rain to Belmont County earlier this week. Flood stage is 36 feet.

Widespread flooding occurred on both sides of the Ohio River in communities such as Bridgeport, Bellaire and Powhatan Point. In Martins Ferry, water from the river reached railroad tracks along Ohio 7, and sections of First Street in the industrial area of the community were underwater Thursday. Davies said, however, that the river didn’t actually reach First Street; instead, he said, the flooding there was a result of storm drains backing up.

Davies said he visited the Austin Master site “about 20 times” on Thursday. During one of those stops, he met with representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is the agency that permitted the site to operate.

According to Davies, although water could be seen surrounding the plant, no flood water was able to get inside the facility. Davies said he witnessed this himself and that he had also talked with the facility’s groundskeeper, who said no water had made it into the plant.

According to Davies, for water to actually enter the plant, which is a former steel mill, the river would have to rise to a depth of 45 feet.

Efforts to contact the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Natural Resources for additional information on the situation at Austin Master were unsuccessful. A media liaison for the OEPA did respond to an email with a query about The Times Leader’s deadline but did not provide any information. A call to the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas was directed to a voice mailbox that was full and no longer accepting messages.


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