Ohio DNR Visits Patriot Water Facility in Warren, OH

Patriot Water in Warren, Ohio is fighting a battle on both the legal and publicity fronts. Yesterday they scored some points in the publicity column by (finally) getting a representative from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to tour their facility.

Brief background: Patriot’s facility processes wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, removing the nasty stuff so the water is clean and able to be disposed of through the local Warren municipal wastewater processing plant. But the Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rescinded Warren’s permit to accept the wastewater from Patriot, saying Patriot’s technology is not up to scratch (see this MDN story for more background on Patriot’s legal squabble with the OEPA).

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Tuesday finally accepted Patriot Water Treatment’s invitation to visit the business.

Patriot owner Andrew Blocksom said he has been inviting representatives from that agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to tour the site with him since the business opened and the controversy surrounding its brine disposal began last year.

The debate continues over Patriot’s method of pre-treating natural gas drilling wastewater, called brine, before sending it to Warren’s Water pollution Control Center for further treatment and disposal into the Mahoning River.

This week, the ODNR inspector told them he was at Patriot under the direction of ODNR Management, Patriot’s attorney, April Bott of Bott Law Group in Dublin, said.

The visit came following a ruling last week by the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, or ERAC, that made it clear that brine disposal must solely be regulated by ODNR, agency Communications Director Carlo LoParro said Wednesday.

Despite the ERAC ruling, which Patriot has viewed as favorable to their operations, LoParro said ODNR maintains that the frack fluid that Patriot treats must be disposed of in a class II injection well or Patriot must apply for a new technology permit from ODNR.

The ruling, which came last week, determined that OEPA’s bid to ban Warren from accepting the brine through an amended permit was done unlawfully and that OEPA director Scott Nally was outside his authority in his attempts to enforce a section of Ohio Revised Code that specifically places brine disposal under the authority of ODNR.

This week’s visit by ODNR to the Warren plant was significant for Blocksom because he said he has been inviting officials to tour the plant for nearly a year.

In November, Chris Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the OEPA, said Attorney General Mike DeWine’s ruling that the permits for Patriot and Warren were issued illegally was consistent with the OEPA’s determination that brine waste should not be handled by facilities like Patriot without certain “innovative” technologies in place.

Blocksom countered, saying his facility was in fact innovative, and neither agency had bothered to look for themselves.

“Neither the attorney general nor OEPA Director Scott Nally have ever set foot in our facility, so we feel they are unable to understand or assess what we do. Patriot’s process is the first of its kind in Ohio and therefore, by definition, innovative,” he said at the time.*

But the OEPA still maintains the ruling upheld their authority to block a permit for Patriot. So the situation remains in limbo until the lawyers and presumably the courts can sort it out.

*Warren (OH) Tribune Chronicle (Jul 12, 2012) – ODNR visits Patriot treatment plant