GreenHunter Could Store Toxic Water Next to River
Concern Grows Following Spill In Kanawha
19 January 2014
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer
WHEELING - When GreenHunter Water opens its planned frack water
recycling facility in Warwood later this year, up to 23,000
barrels of possibly contaminated and toxic water and related
materials will be mere yards from the Ohio River - and about 1
mile upstream from the city's water plant.
Following this month's Freedom Industries spill in the Elk River
in Kanawha County that left about 300,000 West Virginians without
water for days, many local officials are looking with increased
concern at the GreenHunter project. The Freedom Industries
location was about 1.5 miles upstream from West Virginia American
In that spill, an estimated 7,500 gallons of a chemical known as
4-methylcyclohexane methanol - used as a frothing agent for coal,
and about which not much is known - entered the Elk River and
contaminated the water system for residents in nine counties.
Locally, the fracking wastewater that will be stored at
GreenHunter - the company estimates 30 trucks a day will deliver
to the site - could contain chemicals such as arsenic, barium,
bromides and radium, among others, some of which produce low
levels of radioactivity. GreenHunter Vice President of Business
Development John Jack insists the company will exercise caution to
prevent any type of spill.
The problem local officials have is that no state or federal
agency appears to be in charge of monitoring liquid storage
facilities such as GreenHunter - the same issue those in
Charleston have found with Freedom Industries.
Oversight for Above-Ground Liquid Storage Facilities
One thing that's been learned since the Freedom Industries
spill is what's known as "chemical storage facilities" have little
to no oversight from either the state or federal government.
GreenHunter Water likely would fall into this category, as no
chemical production or manufacturing would take place through
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn't regulate
aboveground chemical storage for many industries, and the West
Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has said they
would only regulate the facility if it drilled into the earth or
discharged a pollutant into the air or the Ohio River.
Jack did say the West Virginia DEP would do a "walk-through"
inspection of the plant once it is up and running.
"As long as they are not drilling - and are not going to discharge
anything into the air or into the water - they don't need any
permit from us," former DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said in July.
"Companies come up with new technologies all the time. Until the
plant is running, we don't know what they are going to be doing."
Current DEP spokesman Thomas Aluise referred further questions to
Scott Mandirola, director of the West Virginia Division of Water
and Waste Management. He did not immediately return calls seeking
Some in Charleston are not waiting to make changes to how such
facilities are regulated. State Senate Majority Leader John Unger,
D-Berkeley, introduced a bill last week that would authorize the
DEP to register and inspect all above-ground liquid storage
"This will protect the water in regards to any kind of chemicals
or other types of liquids that could end up in our water
resources," Unger said. "We want to ensure that every West
Virginia resident has access to clean drinking water and that as
lawmakers, we are doing everything possible to safeguard the
safety of our water resources."
The Elk River spill also is provoking action in the U.S. Senate.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is investigating the spill and has
planned two hearings to explore how similar situations can be
"We need to make sure that we identify dangerous chemicals and are
making progress on chemical reforms," Boxer said.
Just what chemicals will be stored at the GreenHunter site also is
a point of contention. As with the Freedom Industries chemical,
MCHM, no one seems to really know enough about what will be in the
wastewater stored by GreenHunter.
"What are they planning to store? What are the planning to send
back out?" said Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard
Gamble regarding GreenHunter.
Gamble and Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou
Vargo hoped to discuss this with GreenHunter officials at a
scheduled meeting last Thursday, but Gamble said the meeting was
canceled due to one of the company's representatives falling ill.
"Since this is an informational session, we will reschedule the
meeting," Gamble said. "We actually were scheduled to have this
meeting before the Charleston event."
GreenHunter's provisions for a leak
According to the GreenHunter site plan provided by Tom
Connelly, assistant director of the Wheeling Economic and
Community Development Department, the company plans to construct
23 separate 1,000-barrel tanks on the 2.35-acre site at the former
Seidler's Oil Service on North 28th Street in Warwood. Some of
these tanks will hold clean rainwater, while others will hold
reusable fracking water, drilling waste fluid and flowback water,
the plans show.
The site will feature a dike that is slightly more than 2 feet
high to prevent any spill from leaving the area, while there also
will be surface drains leading to underground storage tanks.
Jack has said the company's spill containment design meets U.S.
EPA standards. He said the water the plant will be handling is far
less toxic than the petroleum, hydrochloric acid and other
chemicals shipped daily on the Ohio River.
The city of Wheeling has given approval to the company's site
plan, and the project is moving forward. Still, Connelly, Gamble
and Vargo are not sure what chemicals may soon be on-site.
"We decided that once this becomes more of a reality, we would
meet with them to go over their emergency plans," said Vargo,
noting he met informally with GreenHunter representatives last
year in Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron's office. "I look
forward to working with them. The more we hear from them, the
better we will be able to plan."
Connelly also noted that Wheeling's building inspectors would
review GreenHunter's tank construction plans to make sure they
meet proper standards before installation.
Neither Jack nor Jonathan Hoopes, GreenHunter's interim CEO and
president, could be reached for further comment.