The treatment of brine wastewater from fracking has become a point of contention between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Patriot Water Treatment LLC, a Lisbon-based company that operates a water treatment plant in Warren.
Patriot Water has been treating the water illegally discharged in storm sewers next to D&L Energy property on Salt Springs Road, Youngstown. However, ODNR has been interfering with Patriot's business, according to a letter dated Feb. 18 from Patriot's lawyer to ODNR.
"Specifically, as part of onsite management efforts, an ODNR manager instructed D&L not to send any low-TDS wastewaters to Patriot based on the undocumented claim that Patriot is not an 'authorized' facility,'' attorney April Bott's letter reads.
By deterring D&L's business, ODNR caused Patriot to lose D&L as a customer. And that left D&L with no other legal option except using underwater injection wells, which require a fee to be paid to ODNR, she said.
Patriot Water offers an alternative to the injection wells. It pre-treats industrial wastewater before it is sent to be treated at the Warren wastewater plant, which then disposes of the cleansed water into the Mahoning River, she said.
Federal charges were filed last week against Ben Lupo, owner D&L Energy, Hardrock Excavating and several other Youngstown-based companies that he ordered his employees to discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of oilfield waste into a storm drain.
Attempts to contact ODNR's spokeswoman for comment on Monday were unsuccessful.
Spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle told the Columbus Dispatch last week that the agency supports a proposed change in state law inserted in Gov. John Kasich's two-year budget bill that would outlaw the disposal of treated waste from oil and gas wells into groundwater, lakes and streams.
Ohio officials want to shut Patriot down, saying the practice is a threat to the river, the paper reported.
Botts addressed the claims in Saturday's Dispatch that ODNR's claims remain unsubstantiated, and that the agency has confirmed it has no records to support them.
She also includes information in the letter assuring Patriot Waters' possession of all necessary permits from the OEPA and ODNR in order to operate and that they have not had an environmental incident in more than two years.
This is not the first time Patriot Water and ODNR have been in conflict. The letter also cites other instances when ODNR has steered clients from the business.
In January 2012, Patriot Water sent a similar letter after two of its customers notified the company that ODNR was directing them to use deep water injection wells to dispose of wastewater as opposed to sending the water to Patriot Water. The customers also said ODNR made claims that they would be shutting down Patriot Waters by the end of 2012.
Patriot had been forced to cease operations from April 1 to July 3, 2012, while it battled ODNR for permission to restart operations. Ultimately, Patriot won the challenge by a ruling from the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, but lost millions of dollars in business during the process.
Patriot then filed a lawsuit in Dec. 2012, which is currently pending, alleging that ODNR hid and destroyed public records that would have helped resolve its case more quickly. Patriot Water is seeking more than $3.5 million from ODNR in the case.