Environmental group sues
City of Warren, Patriot Water targeted for discharges
WARREN — Patriot Water and the city of Warren are being sued by an environmental group based out of Grand Rapids over the company’s discharges and the city’s failure to properly regulate it.
The Freshwater Accountability Project claims Patriot Water and city officials have been violating aspects of the Clean Water Act. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court Eastern Division by attorney Megan M. Hunter of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services in Akron.
The lawsuit claims Patriot has repeatedly exceeded standards for zinc, molybdenum and ammonia.
Most publicly owned treatment plants, such as Warren’s, are not designed to treat wastewater from oil and gas extraction that contains high concentrations of dissolved solids, as well as radioactive elements, metals, chloride, sulfates and other constituents that may be in wastewater treated by Patriot, the suit claims.
“A 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule states there should be no discharge of wastewater pollutants associated with production, field exploration, drilling, well completion or well treatment for unconventional oil and gas extraction into publicly owned treatment works,” according to the lawsuit.
Wastewater from oil and gas wells, in general, have high concentrations of radium, the suit states.
“The radiological components of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing present problems for even the most advanced treatment facilities,” the lawsuit states. “Any residual wastes that are created may have gamma radiation emissions greater than background levels in the environment.”
The Ohio EPA issued Warren notices of violation each month from January through March 2017 for violating the Total Suspended Solid levels permitted. The high levels of dissolved solids also have caused the city to receive notices of violations from the Ohio EPA.
Total Suspended Solids measures the amount of of organic and inorganic particles in water.
“High levels of TSS in surface water can negatively impact fish populations, making fish unable to see or feed properly, clogging their gills and suffocating their eggs and larvae,” according to the lawsuit.
In March 2015, the Ohio EPA issued the city a notice of violation for having high levels of barium in its system. The city was issued notices of non-compliance for high levels of zinc in its effluent on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016.
“Zinc contamination in streams can lead to fish kills and and negative physiological impacts on surviving fish populations,” according to the lawsuit. “It also is a skin irritant.”
The suit claims the city violated the Clean Water Act by having high weekly TSS levels on multiple occasions in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The city also had high weekly e-coli levels on multiple occasions in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The suit claims Warren failed to issue local limits for barium and it does not adequately regulate or monitor for radionuclides.
Leatra Harper, managing director and co-founder of the Freshwater Accountability Project, said the environmental group started six years ago when her family attempted to protect a lake near her home in Senecaville.
Since that time, interest in preventing the waste from hydraulic fracturing coming into Ohio has become a mission. Since those early years, the Harpers moved their operations to Grand Rapids.
They learned about what Patriot has been doing in Warren in 2012.
“I spoke to (then-Water Pollution Control department director) Tom Angelo about our concerns about water safety and preventing people from getting sick,” she said.
City Law Director Greg Hicks said he is aware of the lawsuit, but it has not been delivered to the city, so his office has not had the opportunity to analyze its contents.