Over four thousand citizens from the Ohio River basin filed protests of Texas-based GreenHunter’s frackwaste barge dock facility permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month. Because more than 3000 letters were sent through an alert by Food and Water Watch (FWW), the Corps is acknowledging fewer than 1000. Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) encourages writers who used the FWW tool to e-mail Teresa Spagna of the Corps directly at email@example.com
to request that their earlier comments be counted. Sending from your own e-mail account seems to be what the Corps requires to count your letter. Please send a short e-mail to Ms. Spagna requesting your earlier comment be counted. Ms. Spagna has told us that comments will be accepted until a decision is made. She has also stated that the Corps has no deadline for a decision.
Citizens and public officials are concerned because the facility would permit offloading and aboveground storage of over one hundred million gallons of frackwaste shipped from the Gulf Coast as well as down the Ohio River. The 981 miles of the Ohio River provide drinking water to over 3 million people. Ten percent of the country lives in the Ohio River Basin. Why would the Corps even consider approving this project when the chemical makeup of radioactive frack waste is a guarded secret? Look at ongoing impacts of poisoned water on the cities of Charleston and Toledo and of C8, which after years is still poisoning the very region where this dock is proposed.
ACFAN and a coalition of concerned residents of West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio have been working to alert the public and encourage letters of protest, joined by Athens County Commissioners and Athens City Council. The calls resulted in an extension of the original July comment period to Aug. 24.
One Meigs County resident’s letter highlighted past promises of prosperity. John Stock wrote, “Meigs County Ohio was once a thriving agricultural leader with many cow dairies and sheep farms. The promise of even more riches arrived with the coal companies who in less than 50 years destroyed the water, soil, and air of this previously fertile land. They took the money and left the county high and dry to deal with the environmental devastation that was high wall coal mining. Fast forward to 2014: Pomeroy and Middleport have still not recovered,..
“Even with this historical handicap, Meigs County is trying to claw its way out of our social and environmental hole. An on-farm dairy processing plant which relies on water from well fields along the Ohio River is one of the largest employers in the county; the Green Corridor in Rutland Township is a thriving community of farmers, artists, craftsmen, teachers, herbalists, social workers, and more who protect a contiguous area of thousands of acres of land; Pomeroy, Harrisonville, and points in between have established themselves as destinations for seeing and playing The Blues. All of these people have a different plan for the future of Meigs County other than more environmental degradation. What is the economic carrot that GreenHunter is dangling this time? Jobs? Tax revenue? Who honestly believes that this toxic barge dock will do anything more than threaten the health and safety of our community once again?”
Stock and other writers cited the June 2014 Monroe County frackpad explosion and weeklong fire, in which a tributary of the Ohio River was so contaminated that at least 70,000 fish died, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A USEPA report on the fire states that at least one chemical involved in the fire cannot be tracked due to lack of testing protocols.
“Downstream drinking water supply officials cannot even track this chemical,” noted Donna Carver, Buckeye Forest Council interim director. “How can they protect citizens who rely on the Ohio [River] for drinking water? This situation can occur only because this industry is exempt from federal drinking water laws that govern all other hazardous chemical industries. This must change,” she concluded.
U.S. Army Corps regulations state, “The benefit that reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments.” Stock’s letter concludes, “The project has no benefits to the region. Its reasonably foreseeable detriments are of great public consequence and must be considered in a public hearing and an EIS [environmental impact statement]. I look forward to notice from you of further opportunities for public comment and public hearings in communities that would be affected by this proposal.”
Attorney Terry Lodge sent a letter to Spagna on Monday 9-15-14, endorsed by twenty groups from Ohio, West Virginia, and Illinois as well as national groups, expanding on this appeal: “We request that you please advise what NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] document the Corps is preparing…Without being informed of the determination the Corps has obviously made concerning NEPA, the public has not been timely informed and NEPA’s aim of maximizing informed public advice has not been met. We further request to know what the anticipated timeline is for production of the NEPA document, and whether it will be circulated for public comment.”
Lodge’s letter concludes with a warning, “Approval of GreenHunter’s permit without disclosing the nature of the material to be delivered to the dock while issuing a NEPA finding only at the end of the process brings into serious question the Corps’ objectivity. We will consider a lack of response to these requests for information after October 10, 2014 as a sign that the Corps does not intend to address its NEPA responsibilities in a public and transparent way.”