Should Drilling Wastewater Be Transported On Barges? - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Should Drilling Wastewater Be Transported On Barges?

Posted: Updated:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -

The U.S. Coast Guard is facing a tough decision, can drilling wastewater be barged on the nations' waterways.

The amount of drilling wastewater from a three-state area is sky-rocketing and a Texas-based company wants to move it by barge up and down the Ohio River, because their CEO said it is safer and more economical.

GreenHunter Energy (the Ohio facility is called GreenHunter Water LLC) bought a former Mobil terminal nearly a year ago along S.R. 7 near New Matamoras, Ohio, but so far they are only hauling drilling waste by truck.

"Our goal is to become much more efficient for moving this water by bringing it via barge from Pennsylvania," said Gary Evans, Chief Executive Officer of GreenHunter Energy.

Evans said one 10,000 barrel barge load equals 100 trucks and each towboat can handle 15 barges. The facility is accepting about 3,000 barrels of drilling waste water per day.

The barging plans are on hold while the Coast Guard determines whether this waste is hazardous to those critical waterways, but the Coast Guard is under a lot of pressure in Washington to give this the green light. Bulk shipments by barge of wastewater are not currently permitted, said Carlos Diaz, Deputy Chief of Media Relations U.S. Coast Guard Office of Public Affairs. The Coast Guard is working with other federal agencies to determine how to classify the waste.

Marietta College is 30 miles downstream from the drilling waste water facility and four blocks from the Ohio River. "What happens if you have an accident, a barge capsizes, is holed or forced to lose its cargo?" said Dr. Eric Fitch.

Fitch is the Director of Environmental Science programs at the college and has studied the issue extensively. "The public and responsible authorities don't know what is in the drilling waste," he said.

Evans said only 10 to 15 percent of the brine water they haul has chemicals used to frack a well. Although he said the water is safe and promised to send NBC4 a sample to test, the sample never arrived.

However -- one brine sample released last year after a public records request filed in June 2012 with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources showed elevated levels of radioactivity, arsenic barium and toluene in the sample mix. That sample was from a drilling sample in the 1980's.

"We cannot say the concentration is low, so we do not need to worry about it, even low concentrations of the wrong materials can have negative effects," said Fitch.

Evans said barging is much more economical than trucking.

"We see that as something that is going to be absolutely essential because of increased drilling activity that is going to occur here in the Marcellus and Utica Shale's," Evans said.

"I would not disagree that barging is more economical. Travel by water is both energy efficient and safe, but accidents do happen," Fitch said.

On January 27, two barges crashed into a bridge on the Mississippi River, spilling 80,000 gallons of oil and leading to a partial shutdown of the shipping lanes.

The Coast Guard said they do not have a timetable on when they will rule on barging wastewater.  Evans said he expects trucking of wastewater to quadruple in the near future.

Powered by WorldNow

3165 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, OH 43202

Telephone: 614.263.4444
Fax: 614.263.0166
Email: stories@nbc4i.com

NBC4 BBB Business Review
Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.