Planning Commission Okays Frackwater Treatment Plant
By Rick HidukThe Bradford County Planning Commission granted conditional approval on Tuesday night for HydroRecovery LP to pursue permitting for the construction of a frack wastewater treatment plant off Route 6 in Standing Stone Township. The company, which is based in Blossburg in Tioga County where one such facility has been in operation since April, has 90 days to answer to 12 primary concerns posed by the planning commission members.
Opposition to the plant was limited to one speaker and a former Standing Stone Township supervisor, who suggested at the meeting that she had been voted out of her seat because of her objections to the facility. At least a half dozen residents expressed their approval of the venture and welcomed project manager David Hedrick to their community.
“I was glad to see that a lot of people were in support of the project,” Hedrick related the next morning. “I know it’s a controversial topic, and, these days, it’s mostly the people who are against anything gas related who come out to speak.”
Hedrick feels strongly that the construction of permanent facilities such as the one that he is proposing here are a better solution to treating frackwater on site or moving treatment facilities from one site to another, which has been the general practice of gas companies in the area since the drilling boom began.
“We just don’t feel that is the way to go. It’s an imposition on the landowner and involves a lot of liability on the part of the gas company,” Hedrick explained. “We take the liability and the risk. Once the water comes onto our site, we own it. After we’ve treated it and it goes back into the trucks, they (gas companies) own it again.” HydroRecovery already has master service agreements (MSAs) in place with most of the “major players” in the Marcellus shale drilling region, Hedrick noted.
He added that the company focused on Standing Stone Township because of its proximity to active drilling sites. “If you look at a well permit map, that’s pretty much dead center for drilling activity,” said Hedrick. Plans presently involve the company leasing the land on which the plant will be built, with an option to purchase the two parcels in the future.
At the planning commission meeting, Hedrick took turns with Hawbaker Construction representative Eric Kann in explaining details of the project and addressing concerns about topics such as detention basins, landscaping, and the roadways that will lead in and out of the facility via Route 6.
Standing Stone resident Diane Ward didn’t directly oppose the plant as much as she admonished commission members to table any decisions on its construction until they had fully reviewed all of the associated data. Ward expressed reservations about the plans for open detention basins—or “pits,” as she referred to them—that could be accessed by the abundant wildlife in the area, and she reminded those who would be responsible for the approval of the plant that response time to the relatively remote site by emergency responders is limited in the event of an accident there.
Sylvia Coates countered that cellphones emit more radiation than frack wastewater and that Standing Stone Township residents deserved the break in taxes that revenue from the treatment facility could generate.
“It could help not just our township but the county as well,” Standing Stone Township planning commission chairman Jack Coates added. Hedrick noted that he and Kann made a presentation to Standing Stone officials last month.
After all sides had expressed their concerns, Hedrick asked the board for the conditional approval, noting that HydroRecovery could not further its permitting process with Pennsylvania DEP without it. Bradford County planner Sam Thrush, who guided most of the meeting, confirmed that, via his discussion earlier in the day with DEP environmental waste manager Lisa Houser, that the agency could begin its review of HydroRecovery’s application with a conditional approval by the commission, which was granted unanimously.
Hedrick indicated afterward that he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, although he cautioned that the project is still in the earliest phases. Not all of the conditions cited by the board will be easily met, but he expressed optimism that, if all goes well, construction of a frack wastewater treatment facility in Standing Stone Township could begin within a year.
To learn more about the company’s plans, readers may log on to www.hydrorecovery.com.