Glynis Board Published

Will fracking waste soon hit the Ohio River?


The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking public comments on a proposal that would allow barges to transport shale gas wastewater.

The waste is a byproduct of the drilling process, and it can include both man-made chemicals and naturally occurring heavy metals and radiation. The waste fluids are currently stored at drilling sites or transported by truck or train to treatment plants and deep underground injection disposal wells. The Coast Guard says some companies want to use barges instead of trucks to move the waste to disposal sites.

One such company, GreenHunter Water, recently purchased an 11-acre barge terminal site in Wheeling that sits along the Ohio River. The company is converting the former gasoline storage facility into a shale wastewater handling and storage site designed to recycle and/or dispose of  gas drilling water.

Phase two of the company’s plans will use river barges to transport waste fluids to various injection disposal sites, but those plans are contingent upon the Coast Guard permitting the transport of fracking waste on inland waterways.

Some environmental groups says the comment period should be longer than 30 days and that the proposal is flawed because it doesn’t mention environmental safeguards. The Coast Guard is accepting comments until Nov. 29. The official title of the proposal is Carriage of Conditionally Permitted Shale Gas Extraction Waste Water in Bulk.