Officials see no progress on Austin Master cleanup

MARTINS FERRY — Despite the threat of jail time and a daily $200 fine, local officials say nothing has changed at the Austin Master Services frack waste processing facility.

On May 21, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra ruled that Austin Master will be fined $200 a day and CEO Brad J. Domitrovitsch will spend 30 days in jail unless the oil and gas waste at its Martins Ferry facility is reduced to permitted levels by July 22. He found the company and Domitrovitsch to be in contempt of court for failing to meet a court-ordered April 17 deadline to clean up the facility.

Vavra imposed a July 22 deadline for them to comply, as determined by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. Austin Master’s operating permit states that it can store up to 600 tons of oilfield waste products. Estimates indicate that the company has around 10,000 tons of waste, some of which is radioactive, on site.

The initial cleanup deadline was established as a result of a complaint filed by Ohio attorney General Dave Yost on behalf of the division after its inspections on Feb. 7 and March 15 revealed that a “substantial” amount of waste had been accepted and piled up “beyond the containment walls,” according to testimony Tuesday by Tara Lee, assistant chief of the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies said Wednesday that he has seen no activity at the plant site. Only a security guard and a maintenance employee are working there. Davies said he hasn’t seen any material taken out of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel mill even though he visits the area frequently.

Davies also said he has been unable to get any new information about the situation from ODNR.

“Just to update council on Austin Master, I haven’t heard from ODNR,” he said during a meeting Wednesday evening. “They do their own thing. I don’t really think they really care about what happens to us in Martins Ferry.”

ODNR did not respond to an emailed request for comment for this report.

Councilman Ben Neiman echoed much of what Davies said. Neiman reported that he had visited the site, where he spoke to the security guard. He said the guard told him no progress has been made on the cleanup.


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