Two County Officials get in on the brine issue

Two Warren County Commissioners are looking to get involved in the ongoing issue regarding the use of oil and gas brine on dirt roads.

Until a recent decision by the DEP Environmental Hearing Board, DEP had issued annual permits for brine spreading. The decision changes that.

“DEP does not currently allow use of brines produced by conventional oil and gas operations for dust suppression or de-icing,” DEP Community Relations Coordinator Melanie Williams previously told the Times Observer. “DEP has never allowed wastewater from unconventional operations to be spread.”

“Recent litigation called into question whether the DEP’s existing brine-spreading plan approval process for brine produced from conventional oil and gas wells violates the requirements for permitting in the Solid Waste Management Act,” Williams said.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said the topic came up at a town hall meeting last week in Columbus Township.

He said DEP’s ban has “caused a problem” for the more “economically challenged townships and boroughs that have dirt roads.”

Those townships, he said, have used oil and gas brine at little or no cost to suppress dust in the summer and de-ice roads in the winter.

Eggleston explained that the conversation focused on the fact that DEP’s action has “created a huge costs for municipalities” who have to look for other ways to treat dirt roads that can cost “tens of thousands.”

He noted that those expenses are coming to the municipalities as unbudgeted items.

“We’ve got to do something for the townships with dirt roads,” he said. “It’s a major problem.”

Commissioner Cindy Morrison said she met last summer with a firm “that does alternative spray methods on roadways.”

She said the only drawback is the funding.

“I would be interested in bringing that person in to discuss that (and) other companies that do this alternate method,” she added.

“Any option should be put on the table,” Eggleston said.

He expressed a concern that individual municipalities may move forward without communicating with other municipalities, thus spending more than is necessary.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin suggested to Eggleston and Morrison that they work through the county’s Council of Governments.

“That’s where you’ll get the most impact,” he said.

Morrison noted that not all are involved with the COG but Kafferlin noted that a majority are compared to no municipal representation at Monday’s meeting.

Eggleston said he would be coordinating with Chief Clerk Pam Matve to coordinate meetings with the municipalities.

“Some townships don’t use brine,” he said. “One initial thing has to be working with the COG.”