Sunday, February 28, 2010

Patriot Water still seeks special use permit

Last Tuesday, February 23, Andy Blocksom tried to convince the Town of Owego Planning Board of the merits of Patriot Water Treatment's request for a special use permit for floodplain development. When the votes were tallied, he came up one short. The board voted 3 to 2 in favor of recommending the permit, but apparently they needed four to make a majority.

As a result, they cannot recommend action for the Zoning Board of Appeals - which is where Blocksom will be arguing his case on March 10.

Though I was not at the planning board meeting, one of my citizen-journalist colleagues took loads of good notes.  According to Frank, more than 100 local residents showed up to hear the the ruminations of the town planning board, filling up the seats and lining the walls of the auditorium.

Prior to the vote, planning board chairman Robert Rieg explained that the board has the responsibility to approve or disapprove proposed site plans. However, because the proposed Patriot Water Treatment facility lies within the 100 current year flood plain, a special use permit is required. That permit must be approved by the zoning board. 

So, explained Rieg, the planning board could only provide a recommendation to the zoning board. If the zoning board approves the special use permit, Rieg said, then the planning board would address Patriot’s site plan.

But, Rieg emphasized, prior to any planning board decision on a site plan, a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) must be completed, with either the zoning board or planning board taking on lead agency status. 

As in the Feb. 17 meeting,  Blocksom, assisted this time by civil engineer David Marnicki and attorney Sarah Campbell, answered questions about frack water storage at the facility. Planning board members asked for specifications on the water holding tanks, fresh water impoundment, specifics about treated water leaving the facility and how water was tested and monitored throughout the treatment process. They also asked about qualifications for employees operating the treatment facility as well as plans for entrance and egress for trucks hauling wastewater to the facility.

Even though it was not a public hearing, Rieg opened the meeting for public comment.  He noted that since the October meeting, the planning board had received 25 e-mails and letters commenting on the proposed project. 

Echoing discussion from the previous week, residents raised concerns about truck traffic. Some people commented that four trips inbound means four trips out, a total of eight truck trips per hour along the road. This is a lot of noise and toxic exhaust, they pointed out. Residents did not seem impressed by Blocksom’s description of how the tanks of material would be moved in an imminent flooding situation. They didn't like the idea of having  a facility that treats hazardous waste located in the flood plains and so close to wetlands.

At the end of the night Rieg told Blocksom, “Maybe your process has potential, but you picked a lousy site."

What’s next:  On Wednesday, March 10 the Town of Owego Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a special meeting to consider Patriot Water Treatment’s application for a special use permit for floodplain development. The meeting will be held at 7 pm in the Hubbard Auditorium (56 Main Street). Patriot Water Treatment is the only item on the agenda. For more information please contact the Town of Owego planning department at 687-0123 ext. 6.


  1. Is the fluid entering the plant officially 'hazardous' waste, as defined by the EPA, and if so, how come the EPA does not oversee such a significant project, one on the leading edge of advanced waste-water recycling technology. Where will the after-product, the concentrated sludge go?

  2. This is a good question. If it were any other industry (not oil/gas) this would be hazardous waste. As far as how the sludge is to be handled: their idea is to toss it into trailers and haul it to "an appropriate waste facility". Let's hope it doesn't end up on some farmer's field.

  3. Is this Patriot water Treatment's FIRST operational site?
    Is there any history on record of their proposed treatment method working?
    If so, test results for all concerns should already be available for review.

  4. Andy Blocksom keeps saying they've worked with other people on this type of project, but there is no paper trail (or internet trail or even anyone at those projects "remembering" Patriot)......
    So, yeah, it sounds like it might be their first stab at this.
    If they don't get the Special Use Permit they won't be able to go forward as planned.... so show up Mar. 10 for the Zoning Board meeting.