Sunday, February 21, 2010

Owego residents not enthused about proposed Frackwater Treatment Plant

Last Wednesday, February 17 Andrew Blocksom returned to the Tioga County Planning Board with a revised site plan for his proposed frack-water treatment facility. The planning members voted 5 - 2 in favor of the revised site plan, just shy of the 6 votes needed for a majority (5 members were absent that night). A recommendation is nice, but not necessary. The true hurdle comes this Tuesday, Feb. 23 when Patriot's site plan comes up for review by the Town of Owego Planning Board.

Blocksom is one of the owners of Patriot Water Treatment LLC. Back in October, when he presented his original plan to the county planning board, they approved his site plan and sent him on to the Town of Owego Planning Board.

The members of the town planning board thought Blocksom needed to do some homework. Instead of approving the site plan, they sent him home with a long list of questions.  

The basic plan is the same: convert the old Chevy dealership on Taylor road into a frack-water treatment plant. The site is already located in an industrially-zoned area, and Blocksom feels it's ideally suited for his business. The existing building would house the distilling equipment and the paved lot and driveways provide ingress, egress, and room to park extra tanks if needed. Trucks will drive up to a docking bay and pump their loads of flowback and frack water into a holding tank. From there the water will go through a vacuum distillation process, where metals and other contaminants are separated from the liquid, and the distilled water will be pumped into trucks waiting to haul it back to the drill sites for reuse.

There are some differences, though. For one thing, Patriot had to "flood-proof" their facility, as the old FEMA maps show that area in the flood plain. (The new maps don't, and Blocksom will likely appeal that in a meeting with the town planning board this Wednesday.) Patriot needs to insure that any tanks will not be breached by flood waters.

“We’re putting in tanks for both the frack water and the clean [distilled] water,” Blocksom said. The 1-million gallon tanks will have 2-foot thick foundations as well as containment tanks that will hold any spills or leaks. Tanks holding the solid waste and sludge left at the end of the process will be mobile and, Blocksom said, they will be moved in the event of a flood. 

The facility will treat frack-water and flowback from early in the drilling process, not the heavily-salted “brines” that are produced later with the gas. Blocksom said that the wastewater will be tested
for metals, ethylene glycol and other volatile organics, and radioactivity. He promised that his facility would not take wastewater contaminated with high levels of any of those things - and that trucks hoping to recycle such wastewater would be sent to injection wells for disposal.

 Owego village mayor Ed Arrington raised concerns about the noise from the estimated 4 trucks/hour all day long every day of the week. He pointed out that there are only two routes to get to the proposed facility: one is the steep Bodle Hill Road and the other is right through the heart of the village. 

“Either way you go through a residential area,” Arrington said. “I don’t think 24/7 is reasonable for the residents of my village to put up with.”


  1. Another big hurdle is the Town of Owego Zoning Board of Appeals approving the special use permit since this project is in 100 year flood plain.

  2. This is a much better plan than the injection wells we have here and I would prefer the trucks to the wastewater pipelines that they are putting all over the place in Texas. No one has authority to regulate wastewater pipelines yet the industry can exercise eminent domain to install them.

    I think what people need to realize is that natural gas production creates massive amounts of toxic waste that needs some kind of disposal.

    SOS: Press for green energy technologlies while limiting your use.