September 15, 2009

Borough council voted 4-1 with one abstention to change the zoning classification on a 10-acre parcel of land on the site adjacent to and behind the Kwik Fill gas station from commercial to heavy industrial so a fracking water treatment facility can possibly be constructed there.

According to Taylor, the plant would remove "suspended solids" from the water used by the natural gas industry to "fracture" the Marcellus Shale natural gas "fairway" currently being developed in Tioga County.

The plant would then sell the water back to the gas companies for re-use.

The four voting in favor of the change were Tom Bogaczyk, Jeff Everett, Jim Bogaczyk, and council president Jerome Ogden, who noted that though he doesn't usually vote at council meetings he felt that he wanted to make his opinion known about the need for the change.

Jill Nickerson was the sole opposing vote saying she had "struggled" for month with the decision, but after speaking with residents who live near the proposed plant, she had to vote "no" out of concern for them.

Council member Cheryl Bubacz abstained as she works for the legal firm which represents Williamson Land Co., the developer working on the project.

Before taking the vote, council heard from several people at the meeting Monday night, many of whom voiced their opposition to the change, fearful of noise and disruption from increased truck traffic.

There also were unanswered questions about the chemicals used by the natural gas industry in its drilling operations for the natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale play.

Borough resident Jeri Deming asked council how much research it had done in the month since it tabled a decision on the change at its August meeting.

"The problem isn't with the water plant, it's with the drilling," she pointed out.

Ogden told her and others that if they were concerned about the chemicals used in the drilling process they need to address the Department of Environmental Protection.

"Beyond making the zoning change we have no control over anything," he said.

As for the noise and dirt from increased truck traffic coming off Route 15, Ogden said that it would come whether a plant was constructed in the borough or not.

"If they don't build here they will build somewhere else, possibly Morris Run or Arnot, and they will have to use the same exit," Ogden said. "They are drilling all over the place. It's progress and it is inevitable," he said.

Richard "Rusty" Taylor, of Linden, vice president of Hydro-Recovery LP, a newly formed subsidiary of RNS Services, Blossburg, is working with the Williamson Land Co. to get the $6 million facility constructed. He said the zoning change was merely "the first step" of many approvals that would be needed before ground is ever broken for the plant.

One such permit needed is a "consumptive use" water permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to use water from Johnson Creek, Taylor said.

The water is already being used by Ward Foundry for cooling before it is then discharged back into the creek, "slightly warmer than when it was taken out," Taylor said.

"Our intention is to intercept that water and use it for this purpose," he said, but no water from the operation will ever be discharged back into the creek, he added.

"This will be a zero-liquid discharge. We are not going to discharge into the stream. We treat it, dilute what remains and sell it back," he said.

If the SRBC decides the creek cannot sustain that kind of usage, then the permit will not be issued, he said, and "may be an issue that prevents this facility from operating."

Taylor said the affirmative decision will allow the "process to continue."

Taylor recommended residents visit the Web site for more information about the drilling process and the chemicals used.

From the Sun Gazette
Cheryl Clarke