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Marietta residents plan virtual hearing on fracking

A recent public hearing on a proposed docking facility near Marietta left local residents frustrated and disappointed.

DeepRock Disposal Solutions in Marietta applied for a permit for a docking facility, where locals believe fracking wastewater will be offloaded. The wastewater will be disposed of at DeepRock.

Devola resident George Banziger said he was unhappy with a virtual public meeting with the Huntington District, U.S. Corps of Engineers on Aug. 7.

“People were required to register for the meeting, which was on a Friday and not convenient for most people,” he explained. “The meeting time was changed at the last minute.”

He said after an introduction that lasted half an hour, the 13 people who were able to connect each had two minutes to speak.

“Then the meeting ended early,” Banziger said. “It was not on Zoom, but was on a platform that several people had trouble getting on.”

He said he was also frustrated no representation from DeepRock was in the meeting to answer questions.

Wes Mossor, DeepRock’s general manager, said they were requested answers to questions prior to the meeting.

“We were told we would get a summary of the meeting,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ve received it.”

As a response, a virtual Peoples Hearing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday through Zoom. It will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook live and a hard copy transcript will be sent via certified mail to the Corps of Engineers.

Beverly Reed, community organizer for Concerned Ohio River Residents, said the Peoples Hearing is something the citizen advocacy groups have put together. She said those who spoke at the Aug. 7 hearing, as well as those who didn’t get a chance to attend are invited to register for the meeting at bit.ly/DeepRockPeoplesHearing.

“We’re going to record the Zoom call and send it to the Army Corps so we can feel heard and know they’ve heard our concerns,” she explained.

She added an official complaint was sent in by the group’s attorneys, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Service, as many people were shut out of the meeting.

Groups supporting the hearing include Buckeye Environmental Network, Concerned Ohio River Residents, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Climate Reality Pittsburgh, Ohio River Guardians, Freshwater Accountability Project, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Ohio Poor People’s Campaign.

Banziger said additional comments could be sent to the Corps by Aug. 17, so several people got together and submitted their concerns.

“On Monday, I asked the Corps if I could get a copy of the comments submitted and the Corps’ response to the comments,” he explained. “I was told I had to apply under the Freedom of Information Act. I submitted the completed form right after and was told I would have to pay a cost of $48 an hour. It would be about two hours for the cost the Corps had of providing these.”

A FOIA request was submitted Tuesday afternoon by the Times and the Corps has 20 days to respond.

“Those comments should be publicly accessible,” Banziger said.

He said some of his questions about any safety precautions or back up systems were in place for anything offloaded at the docking site.

Mossor said DeepRock is regulated by the government and their facilities are regularly checked.

“We’ve addressed questions in the supporting documents (for the permit). We are monitored and oversaw by a whole lot of programs,” he said. “One of the biggest is the Facility Response Plan.”

He said the Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Containment is a program that’s in place to monitor and assure that any above ground tanks are in compliance.

“It’s very robust because of our location,” he explained. “We fall under the federal EPA. Every oil and gas business has a SPCC plan if they have bulk storage.”

He noted there are a “fair amount” of injection wells in Washington County, where the wastewater is pumped into the ground. Banziger said he wondered if people knew where they were.

“There are at least 11 injection wells in Washington County,” Banziger said. “There are four on Harmar Hill, with one in back of the offices of the Ohio Soil and Water District on (Ohio) 676. We don’t know if people on Harmar Hill know about these injection wells.”

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