“America’s Radioactive Secret”. Rolling Stone’s Damning Article on Oil and Gas Waste Features Warren County Anti-Brine Activist

Warren County resident Siri Lawson stands on a dirt road near her home in Farmington Township. Photo by Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services.

America’s Radioactive Secret

by Justin Nobel

Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. . .making workers sick and contaminating communities across America

In the summer of 2017, Siri Lawson noticed a group of Amish girls walking down the side of a dirt road near the horse farm where she lives with her husband in Farmington Township, Pennsylvania. The girls, dressed in aprons and blue bonnets, had taken off their shoes and were walking barefoot. Lawson was horrified. She knew the road had been freshly laced with brine.

Radioactive oil-and-gas waste is purposely spread on roadways around the country. The industry pawns off brine — offering it for free — on rural townships that use the salty solution as a winter de-icer and, in the summertime, as a dust tamper on unpaved roads.

Things I Just Heard . . . about the Warren Generating Station

DEP considers new permit to discharge treated industrial waste from coal ash into the Allegheny River

[Editor’s note: Snowy P. is the pen name of a Warren County resident.]

A polished cross section of coal fly ash, a component of coal ash, embedded in epoxy. The image was obtained from back-scattered electrons which show differences in atomic density represented by variation in gray scale. Photo by wabeggs.

Located in Starbrick, Pennsylvania, the Warren Generating Station, operated by GenOn REMA LLC of Houston, has applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a new Permit to discharge treated coal burning waste from “coal ash” into the Allegheny River.

For information about coal ash, see this EPA webpage or this New York Times article

This coal ash has been stored at the plant from the period during which it generated electricity by burning coal, which began in the late 1940s. (Coal is no longer burned at the station to generate electricity, but significant amounts of coal ash remain on site.) The permit, if approved, will allow 29,000 gallons of processed coal ash waste water to flow into the Allegheny River each day. 

Scientific American states that coal ash from burning coal for electricity “carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.” While the amount of radioactivity in this coal ash is unknown—or unreported—it poses a legitimate environmental and public health concern.

Public comment period ends October 29

Due to a citizen request, the public comment period for the permit has been extended to October 29, 2019 for citizens to prepare and submit written comments.

Comments may be submitted by letter to:  Justin C. Dickey, Permits Chief, Department of Environmental Protection, Northwest Regional Office, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville, PA 16335.

Or email comments to Mr. Dickey at judickey@pa.gov. His direct phone number is 814-332-6352.

Public hearing requested, but not yet approved

A request has also been made for a Public Hearing in Warren, to give citizens the opportunity to ask questions and provide testimony. If you believe this public hearing is essential to help residents understand the risks of permitting this polluting activity, let Mr. Dickey know.

You may also express your desire to have a public hearing by contacting the Warren County Commissioners, State Representative Kathy Rapp, or Senator Scott Hutchinson. Conewango Township supervisors may also be contacted by residents of the Township.

More information will appear here in The Allegheny Voice to assist citizens in making comments. 

Date, time and place for a public hearing/meeting—if DEP schedules it— will also appear here. 

Questions? Ask your question in the Comment Section of this post and I will find the answer and reply to your comment.