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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Request for Public Hearing on Frack Waste Facility at the Allegheny River Headwaters

Petitioning Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and 1 other

Request for Public Hearing on Frack Waste Facility at the Allegheny River Headwaters

 Frack Waste Processing and Discharge Planned for the Headwaters of the Allegheny River

In April of 2016 a representative of JKLM Energy approached Coudersport Borough manager with a proposal for a “water remediation strategy” involving the Coudersport Area Municipal Authority (CAMA) sewage treatment plant.

JKLM’s idea was to situate a frack waste processing facility near CAMA's sewage plant so the facility can pre-treat the waste from JKLM's unconventional wells and then discharge it to CAMA's sewage plant for further treatment and discharge into the Allegheny River under CAMA’s existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

A month later, on May 23, 2016, CAMA & Thomas Joseph, the owner of Epiphany Water Solutions, a company contacted by JKLM, annealed the arrangement by signing a Letter of Intent (LOI), which outlines their responsibilities. CAMA agreed to provide land/building for Epiphany’s equipment, natural gas, electrical and plumbing (per Epiphany specs) etc. Epiphany agreed to pump the pre-treated frack waste to CAMA’s sewage plant for further treatment & disposal for a per barrel (.50- $1.00) fee. Since then CAMA & Epiphany have collaborated, while only a handful of area residents were aware of the plans to transport frack waste to the sewage plant for storage, processing and discharge into the headwaters of the Allegheny River were ongoing.

(Approximately 6 months earlier JKLM injected products used in the drilling process into an uncased wellbore. You can read Public Herald’s in-depth reporting on the contamination of the Coudersport area water supplies here.)

The Beans Were Spilled

In June of 2017, Coudersport Borough councilman Bryan Welsh learned of the plans and then passed what he learned onto his acquaintances, explaining CAMA may be planning to vote on whether or not to lease property to Epiphany; during their June 28, 2017 meeting.

Meeting minutes, link here.

About a dozen obviously displeased residents attended the June meeting, asked questions and expressed their concerns. Residents were blindsided when they learned the plans for the regional frack waste facility were in the works since the spring of 2016. They asked the board to slow things down. They requested CAMA notify the public of their intentions, share the lease agreement publicly and allow a reasonable amount of time for public review and comments before voting.

And more importantly they asked the board to uphold Article 1 Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, the environmental rights amendment which provides:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

A week earlier the PA Supreme Court affirmed Article 1 Section 27 in a landmark ruling. State Impact covered it here.

Financial Risk Concerns

In addition to concerns over regional air and downstream water quality, residents also raised concerns over the identifiable financial risks that engaging in a scheme with Thomas Joseph, Epiphany’s owner may present. Google searches revealed several hundred complaints related to another one of Thomas Joseph’s business ventures. They recommended due diligence. The board postponed the vote. They agreed to hold a special meeting on July 12, 2017 to discuss “real estate negotiations.”

All is fair in love and CAMA business

During the July 12, 2017 meeting the board did not accept questions and limited public comments to two minutes. “Safety of the community, environmental issues, economic issues and what is best for the community have been taken into account.” The CAMA board voted unanimously, agreeing to lease to Epiphany. The board successfully kept the details of their secret plan from being sabotaged by the underlings.

This was ethical barbarism. The public has fundamental rights; to have their interests considered and more importantly protected. CAMA’s refusal to address the concerns members of the community raised, before strengthening their unusual commitment to JKLM by signing the lease with Epiphany; calls into question the board’s ability to ethically handle the public’s affairs.

According to CAMA's meeting minutes, they invested significantly to cover engineering costs associated with the project. And the lease agreement requires the authority to purchase the gravel and pay to have it spread and compacted and fund "all required engineering and permitting for the successful completion of the project."

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, north central regional office, the fledgling company’s central waste facility calls for technology that is “unproven” to treat frack waste, if authorized it would be “the first of its kind.” Investing in something with no guarantees for re-payment is called a game of chance, a lottery, a sweepstakes, not a sewage authority.

CAMA’s willingness to go out on a limb by investing heavily in Joseph’s project, in response to JKLM’s request seems extraordinary and it seems judicious to question this. Two days after the lease was signed, on July 14, 2017, Epiphany Allegheny LLC., applied for an Industrial Wastewater Facility permit and also an Air Quality permit “exemption.”

Raise Sewage Rates?

On September 6, 2017 an “Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Plan" prepared by Uni-tec Consulting Engineers Inc. for CAMA (cha-ching), was filed with the Potter County Conservation District. The filing fee was $320.00 and CAMA covered the filng fee (cha-ching) also. Days earlier during CAMA's August meeting, the solicitor explained to those who attended the authority was having financial difficulties and the board needs to find new ways to raise funds or raise user’s sewage bills.

Air Quality Concerns

Back in June, after learning Epiphany may evaporate frack waste near Coudersport’s western border; area residents began releasing helium balloon from the road near CAMA’s sewage plant. Balloons drifted from the site, downwind; over Katy’s restaurant, Fox’s Pizza, Empereon Marketing which is one of Potter County’s largest employers and Coudersport Elementary School.

Threat on the Allegheny Watershed

Processing and discharging waste into the headwaters of the Allegheny River needlessly threatens the water source hundreds of thousands of citizens residing in downstream communities, including Pittsburgh, PA rely upon because currently frack waste from the area's unconventional wells is hauled to zero discharge facilities in McKean County, PA where it is recycled and sent to well pads for reuse.

Citizens deserve to bring their comments and concerns surrounding this project to those who are willing and qualified to respond.

We the undersigned request,

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hold a public hearing in Potter County, to explain the permitting process to the area residents and answer their questions surrounding air & water quality, health, safety, and environment followed by a formal (at least) 30 day publicized public comment period before permits associated with the project are authorized.

I just started the petition Save The Allegheny Watershed and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name. My goal is to reach 100 signatures and I need more support.  

You can read more and sign the petition here: http://chn.ge/2wOmYyt 

Thanks! Laurie

This petition will be delivered to:

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf


Anonymous said...

So Coudersport proudly voted for the billionaire real estate developer, and his energy agenda to be President of the United States, who then handed the EPA over to an Oklahoma Oil/Gas Laywer, the State Department to the Exxon Mobile CEO, and the Dept. of Energy to Rick Perry who wanted to end that Dept. altogether. Now Coudersport wants to comlplain about a frack wastewater plant?? Why don't you have the same faith in this new treatment process just like you did on a pageant promoter with no political experience to be your President? Maybe CAMA still thinks they're helping MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

They also want everyone else to pay for their poor decisions for electing their local and state politlcans

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I click on this link and on the right hand side it states SIGN THIS PETITION/your info will stay private
hum...sounds kinda wrong ...it currently has 41 supporters but only a few people have actually given name and reasons

Anonymous said...

who are the voting members of CAMA? and have they stated their reasoning for voting yes to this treatment plant, publicly? a call for honest answers in the public arena is needed. or do the citizens of Coudersport Borough not deserve that? swamp drain?

Anonymous said...

Get the facts. Learn what you can. I live up wind too. All of Coudersport does. I for one am tired of Bryan Welsh running around screaming the sky is falling. If everyone has such a bug up their you know what, why did the boro accept the money from JKLM for the pool? Cant have it both ways people. Educate yourselves. Fracking is not a new process. It is simply more regulated and publicized. oil Wells have been fracked in this area for decades and nobody cried when the frack waste spewed all over the ground. I am all for a safe environment, I truly am. I am all for the headwaters and its beautiful water. If you are anti fossil fuel stop using it until wind and solar are ready to be used. No electricity, stop driving your cars, mowers, recreational vehicles. Dont use gas to heat your home. Nobody takes the time to get educated when things happen somewhere else, only when it might be them. How many of you in this county besides the Public Herald have taken an active roll in really following the oil and gas industry which has been extremely active in PA for over a decade now. Do you realize that the entire industrial park area was a hazmat for decades with their ponds? Do you think we have clean ground in the entire west end? Do you realize that the PCE contamination in the same area came from PennDot? Where does the school sit? Do you realize every time it rains or snows contaminated water enters our sewer system? I for one have been researching this topic and cant make a decision right now. Educate yourselves. At least know what you are talking about.i dont see too many solar panels on homes in Coudersport......wind, yep, its on the way...but how many years did wind energy get snubbed in Potter County? Please educate yourself, then make a decision.

Anonymous said...

Frack Waste Processing and Discharge Planned for the Headwaters of the Allegheny River.... just bit misleading.

Anonymous said...

Yes, education on all aspects of unconventional well drilling is needed! JKLM has tried to assume the role of being the expert source of information to our county administrators. Consequently, we have, of course, almost exclusively heard about the economic benefits of "fracking", without hearing about the real, documented threats to public health and the environment. A good source of information that compiles multiple medical, scientific, and investigative articles is: http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/fracking-compendium-4.pdf We need to decide now if we truly want to preserve the integrity of "God's Country" or let an oil and gas company or companies dictate our future.

Unknown said...

I wonder if any of the board members have a connection to this business

Anonymous said...

11:00:00 PM EDT The point of the petition was what you said...get educated, "get the facts" learn. Nowhere does the petition call for no fracking, it calls for informing. What are your thoughts on CAMA DECIDING behind closed doors to take funds from sewage bills to foot the bill for the waste disposal site? Would it be ok if CAMA donated money collected from sewage bills to help cover the costs for building solar panels and wind turbines too? How much should the sewage customers pay for CAMA's philanthropic deeds?

Solomon's words for the wise said...

One of the main concerns is the radiation that is contained in the frack waste water. It has been determined that the areas downstream from sewer plants that processed this waste in other areas left radiation that is accumulative in the river below the plant.
From what I have read, Epiphany's process does not remove radiation from the frack water. Will this radiation contaminate the sewer plant, making it unusable for generations? Will it pollute the Allegheny river making the fish radioactive? Will it pollute the ground water that is fed by the underground river that runs along the visible river?
They claim that the waste will be tested for radiation and not processed if the level is too high. Who will monitor this? Can they be trusted?
If this process is so safe, why does the water that goes through it have to be disposed of in the river? Why can't it be reused by the gas frackers?
If pollutants are evaporated into the air in this process, what kind of chemicals will those downwind breathe? Articles from other areas where this process is supposedly used report the air smelling like skunk? Will residents downwind have their enjoyment of life changed bu obnoxious smells?
Will DEP, whose funding is being seriously cut by the PA legislature in this year's budget, be able to adequately monitor the the air and water from this process?
These are some of the questions that residents downwind and downstream want answers to before this operation is permitted. The attempt to push this project through without public participation indicates there may not be acceptable answers to these questions.
I can almost guarantee you that this facility would not be permitted to drain into the Delaware River where fracking is banned and where Philadelphia gets it's drinking water.
Just because Coudersport and Potter County have low population to protest this doesn't mean it should be a go without answers to the questions above.
The board members of CAMA are known to be responsible, honest citizens of the area, but that doesn't mean they can't be duped by a fast talking salesperson so they should welcome the scrutiny of the public to keep them from making decisions that could harm us all.

Anonymous said...

Yes, exactly!! Thanks, Jim!!

Anonymous said...

Well said Jim, the process, until this summer, was conducted almost entirely in private with little or no notice or public discussion, for over a year. And when the lease was examined it showed a heavy dose of favoritism towards Epiphany and JKLM at Coudersport taxpayer's expense.

Let the community in on this decision.

Sunlight is the very best disinfectant.

Slim Pickens said...

It's a wonder that you people trust CAMA for anything any more after the Adelphia property debacle from the 90's and 2000's or the mysterious multi-million dollar "loan" to bail out kightlingers car sales. Are you telling me the "sewer plant" doesn't give off a smell or doesn't dump contaminated water into the river? I've been downwind and downstream of the sewer plant...not a good scene. They cover up the smell and contaminated water of Pure Carbon. They built the elementary school and adelphia data center on an old dump site. There are people living where the old tannery pond used to be that killed everything that grew near it. But NOW it's an issue. What a bunch of snowflakes......

Anonymous said...

Drink Up fools.Your local and state politicans are laughing all the way to the bank with campaign money.Hopefully your kids and grand kids do not suffer because of their parents decision of electing the ones in office