News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.

Hospice of the Western Reserve

Wayside Furniture


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Will the Ohio River carry fracking wastewater?
The U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether or not to permit it
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Barge at an intermodal site on the Ohio River off loading Barite, a mineral used in fracking
Courtesy of WKSU
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A Texas energy company wants to start using the Ohio River to ship millions of gallons of waste water from fracking to recycling and disposal sites. The proposal could bring new business and jobs, but it’s also sparking safety concerns…and plenty of debate. WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.

Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:58)


As the folk song "The Lovely Ohio" sings, forested bluffs still shoulder the Ohio River. But, there are smokes stacks in the valleys now, and 200 years of industrialization…including at Pier 48 just below Wellsville, Ohio.

Larry HeckIt's an intermodal site where cargo is transferred among highway, railand water carriers. And pier Owner Larry Heck says Ohio’s energy boom is driving very fast business growth. fast. “I was only doing maybe five Barite and two coil barges a month. Well, today I’m doing anywhere from 15 to 30 barges a month.”

The cheapest way
It's most cost-effective to ship fracking supplies and waste products on a vast scale by water. And, while Heck isn’t planning to handle fracking liquids  at Pier 48, forty miles downstream in Wheeling, WV a national fracking-logistics company is.  GreenHunter Energy—headquartered in Texas—bought an old industrial site along the Wheeling waterfront to rebuild into a fracwater processing and loading facility.

What the project would mean
It would mean jobs and business growth for Wheeling and Ohio County, West Virginia, but some are raising concerns. 

Commissioner Howard GambleCounty Health Commissioner Howard Gamble: “What if something were to spill, from a barge, from the land, from a disaster. We don’t want a repeat of what Happened in Charleston.”

Federal regulation
Local and state regulators have little say in whether GreenHunter goes forward with the Wheeling site because the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction over all inland waterways, including the Ohio River. The Service has received 70,000 public comments on the proposal. Dr. Cynthia Znati, the Coast Guard’s scientific evaluator for the project, says if the plan gets the go-ahead, there will be rules to protect residents. For example: “We are going to require that the cargoes be tested before they’re shipped…to allow us to know what is in the water and whether it meets current regulations. 

Drillers may not be thrilled about that. They generally don’t like to disclose their proprietary fracking chemicals, plus they’d have to pay for the testing.

On the other hand...
Local and state water managers say that testing would be crucial to another argument in favor of the plan: river transportation’s safety record; with decades of statistics showing fewer and smaller environmental cleanup issues with barges than with any other mode of shipping.

Alan Vicary headed the Ohio Valley Water Sanitation Commission for 27 years. He says that good track record is thanks to sophisticated spill detection & response cooperation up and down the river. “All the intakes, all the water utilities are communicating, monitoring the river every day. It’s a system that’s probably not equaled anywhere in the world." He says the system will keep working well…IF the contents of all cargos are known.

A potential wildcard 
A potential wildcard is flooding. Health Commissioner Gamble remembers a flood several years ago when a resident called up saying barges were breaking free of their moorings barge holdand one was floating into his town. Gamble chuckles as he remembers the caller’s suggestion: Doesn’t the state of W. Va have a gunboat? We need to shoot this barge and sink it before it comes into downtown.” Comic relief perhaps, but Gamble uses it to point to floods as another possible concern about putting fracwater on barges.

Back at Pier 48...
Larry Heck is not worried. After four decades on the river and years of work on Coast Guard and environmental protection committees, he believes barging can be the least risky way to move fracwater…if it’s done right. “You’ve got to realize how much hazardous material is on the River. And I think it’s just going to come down to regulations. Like when you get into high hazardous materials are on the river what they have is double skinned barges which puts a void between the inner cargo and the river.”

The Coast Guard's stance:
It would likely require double hulls; and that when “tows” (the long assemblages of barges that move up and down river) are put together units carrying liquids have to be in the60 ton overhead crane middle with dry-cargo barges protecting them on the outside. 

Waiting...
The debate over adding fracwater to industrial shipping on the great river is intensifying, with public protests from concerned environmental groups. But as yet, there is no time frame for a decision on the GreenHunter plan from the Coast Guard. 

Listener Comments:

I am looking for a job on the barge if there is anyone hiring let me know I would greatly appreciate it email me back or give me a call at 765 713 9732


Posted by: josh huff (Muncie) on May 13, 2014 6:05AM
Texas $ vs. WV citizens . Who will our governor listen to?


Posted by: Pam (Charleston WV) on April 4, 2014 7:04AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments on who should be paid minimum wage
Just a correction for your story: The trial court sided with the owners. The court of appeals sided with the sales reps.

Husted defends the use of "monopoly" in the wording of Issue 3
Jon, Give me a break. Why don't you concentrate your efforts on other issues to make Ohio a better place to live. Your comments about monopolizing the marijuana...

The Sierra Club is launching ads against Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman
“'I don’t know what the ad’s going to say. But I hope it’s truthful,' said Portman." This from a man who voted "no" last winter on a Senate resolution s...

Ohio Republicans protest the loss of Mt. McKinley
I believe the U.S.gov't. was overstepping its bounds by renaming a mountain that belongs to Alaska. How would we like it if Alaska (or any other state) telling ...

Pluto: University of Akron cuts baseball - should football be next?
remember when akron and Youngstown state were both in the ovc. As a Morehead State fan, made trips to both schools and had a wonderful experience. Played Akron ...

Ohio to aid young adults who age out of foster care
I think it's a great idea. I worked for an at risk high school and it was really sad to see the amount of kids who had no where to go because they had aged out...

Could University Circle developments ripple into East Cleveland?
Outsiders are so far off the beaten path and you all need to attend the meeting being held today 8/31/15 Cleveland Public Library, 1:00 PM. http://44112news.co...

ResponsibleOhio leader says the state is trying to set Issue 3 up for failure
Ohio suppose to believe that a group of investors were united under one cause to legalize marijuana.Once legal they all of sudden turn into 10 different compani...

Terry Pluto: U of A's new athletic director has the toughest job in town
It is a hard sell. The Students do not want to go to the football games and they do not want to pay for the program. They have a lot of student loan debt and t...

Akron considering the future of the B.F. Goodrich smokestacks
This BFGoodrich alumna says, "Thank you, Dave Lieberth!"

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University