Radiation Concerns Coast Guard

Hazardous materials cited in fight over GreenHunter water

Wheeling Intelligencer
7 February 2015
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer

WHEELING - The Coast Guard's lead chemical engineer said radioactivity found in drilling or fracking waste from the Marcellus shale formation would disqualify it from being barged on the Ohio River as so-called oilfield waste, as GreenHunter Resources is hoping to do.

However, GreenHunter Chief Operating Officer Kirk Trosclair said Friday his company still believes it has the authority to transport the wastewater via river vessels, adding that he does not believe there is any proof the material his firm will ship has elevated levels of radium.

Cynthia Znati, lead chemical engineer for the Coast Guard's hazardous materials division, said the presence of radioactivity is the primary difference between "shale gas extraction wastewater" and the more traditional "oilfield waste."

"The Marcellus shale is known to have elevated levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials, particularly radium," Znati said. "From our perspective, that is the main hazard."

In a company statement dated Jan. 26, Trosclair said the Coast Guard recently gave the company permission to transport frack waste on Ohio River barges. GreenHunter officials have maintained this is the roadblock preventing them from further pursuing their planned porting area in the Warwood section of Wheeling.

"The U.S. Coast Guard approval is a significant win for both GreenHunter Resources and our valued clients," he stated.

In a Thursday regulatory filing, GreenHunter cited a letter it received from Coast Guard Capt. Richard Timme, who is based in Louisville, Ky., as the company's greenlight to begin shipping fracking wastewater under Navigation and Inspection Circular 7-87, which regulates the shipping of "oilfield waste" on the nation's waterways. Timme, though, said all his office did was provide information the company requested, and in no way did that correspondence grant any authority to GreenHunter for its shipping plans.

"Shale gas extraction wastewater remains at the agency level for discussion and future action," Timme said Friday.

For GreenHunter to ship waste under the provisions set forth in NCIV 7-87, Timme said the company would have to go through an application process that would include an evaluation of exactly what cargo would be shipped. Znati said GreenHunter would be permitted to barge this "oilfield waste" - if the company passed the test to prove the material is not radioactive.

"GreenHunter Water will continue to transport 'oilfield waste' until such time as the Coast Guard ultimately decides on the proper definition of 'shale gas extraction waste water' and the rules under which such waste water can be transported. Once these rules are finalized, GreenHunter will comply with these rules and regulations," Trosclair said Friday.

Znati said as long as radium remains in a tank, it is not hazardous, and the most dangerous exposure would probably come from inhalation.

Znati said the Coast Guard continues reviewing the 70,000 comments officials received regarding the barging of "shale gas extraction wastewater" and has no timeline for a decision.