Patriot Water loses suit over public records

WARREN – A magistrate overseeing a legal fight over public records has sided with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and against a local water treatment company alleging the state illegally withheld documents.

It was the second time in as many months that Patriot Water Treatment Co. lost a suit against ODNR.

In a ruling issued Monday in Franklin County, 10th District Court of Appeals Magistrate Stephanie Bisca Brooks determined ODNR responded promptly to Patriot Water Treatment’s 2011 and 2012 records requests. Patriot still has a similar case pending against the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Patriot Water, a Lisbon-based company with a plant in Warren, treats brine waste water generated in the oil and natural gas drilling industry, then disposes of it through the Warren Pollution Control Department. Permits allowing the disposal were initially granted in 2010 by the Ohio EPA, but the agency later issued new permits to Warren’s Water Pollution Control Department that included a ban on accepting brine water treated at Patriot.

The ban shut down Patriot’s operations for three months last year while Patriot fought the decision before the Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Ultimately, Patriot won a challenge of ODNR’s ruling through ERAC, but lost millions of dollars in business during the process.

Patriot had requested documents it needed to argue its case, but maintains ODNR withheld the records.

In her ruling, the magistrate stated she sees no evidence that ODNR still has possession of records that should have been turned over. She said the records were turned over within four weeks, what she describes as a “reasonable time period.”

A judge in Ohio’s Court of Claims last month sided with ODNR in dismissing a separate but related suit in which Patriot Water was seeking more than $3 million in damages. The judge in that case determined his court lacks jurisdiction in the lawsuit.