Patriot’s Water Treatment Meets Tests, Says CEO
WARREN, Ohio -- An ongoing feud with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t clouded Patriot Water Treatment LLC’s goal of growth and expanding the company, says its president.
“Our business is thriving,” reports Andrew Blocksom, president of Patriot Water in Warren. “We’ve added employees and our customers are very happy with the service we provide.”
Patriot Water began operations two years ago in Warren Commerce Park, and is set up to treat lightly contaminated water generated from oil and gas drilling operations now active in the Utica and Marcellus shale regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Companies such as Blocksom’s serve a particular market -- the water Patriot treats consists of lighter materials and solids, which he says is not conducive for disposal or storage in Class II injection wells.
Since 2011, Patriot and ODNR have been at odds over the company’s operations. That year, the state agency clamped down and refused to renew its permit to treat wastewater resulting from drilling, and notified the company that it could not send its treated water to Warren’s wastewater plant.
Patriot appealed and won its case before the state Environmental Review Appeals Commission. However, it cost the company millions of dollars in legal fees to present its case. Patriot is suing ODNR for $3.5 million, alleging ODNR destroyed documents that would have helped Patriot’s case.
The latest salvo between the two parties came Feb. 15, when ODNR directed that wastewater removed from D&L Energy’s site in Youngstown could no longer be transported to Patriot for treatment. Instead, that water would be directed to injection wells across the state.
Blocksom says that the water from the D&L site consists of lighter material, which Patriot processes. He reports that this type of water is not compatible with an injection well, and would require additional pressure that could trigger seismic activity.
“We don’t take everything. We don’t want to take everything,” Blocksom remarks. “We take specifically what we can treat.”
Blocksom says he’s asked the state through legal avenues to provide evidence or documentation that Patriot’s process is flawed or endangers the environment.
“They’ve not complied with anything because there is nothing,” Blocksom says. “When somebody comes out and makes an idle threat or a statement that hurts our business, it’s offensive.”
As to why he thinks ODNR is gunning for his business, Blocksom indicates that ODNR loses money when wastewater is diverted to processing centers instead of injection wells. The state earns $1 for every barrel injected into the ground, but it collects nothing if companies such as Patriot treat the water.
“There’s a competition we feel, as if the state is trying to create a monopoly by trying to put us out of business,” Blocksom says.
The treatment process is very involved, and requires steady monitoring and adherence to stiff regulations set by the EPA.
It’s critical that customers looking to transport water to Patriot understand what can and cannot be treated and processed here, reports operations manager Jeff Faloba.
“We’re always trying to be sure that the customer understands our criteria,” he says.
Before any liquids enter the treatment system, the water undergoes a series of tests to determine the pH levels, total dissolved solids (or TDS), total suspended solids (or TSS), and naturally occurring radioactivity often found in byproducts of drilling waste. The water must also meet strict standards adopted by the Ohio EPA.
“We reject about 10% of our materials,” Faloba says, noting that should the levels test too high for treatment at the Warren plant, the water is sent to a Class II injection well for permanent disposal and storage.
Once a customer – in this case, oil and gas companies doing business in the Utica and Marcellus shale region of Ohio and Pennsylvania – determines that Patriot can accommodate and process its load, trucks are dispatched to the site. After the water is tested, the tankers are ready to be unloaded.
Tanker trucks drive directly to the south side of Patriot’s yard, which is equipped with pads, screening tubes and hoses capable of draining four tankers at once. The screening tubes help filter any unwanted debris out of the water system and to avoid spillage, he explains. All of the water is either pumped or fed by gravity to a 622,000-gallon storage tank outside of the plant.
“This allows us to handle customer surges,” Faloba says. Patriot is bound by its OEPA permit to send a maximum of 100,000 gallons of water per day to the city of Warren’s wastewater treatment plant. However, should a customer need to discharge 200,000 or 300,000 gallons, the outside tank has the capacity to store the wastewater until it can be processed.
“This storage tank allows us to handle those surges,” he says.
The yard is fully contained, so should any spill occur, the excess water flows directly into trench drains that lead into a “dump” tank. The dump tank can then feed that water into the larger storage tank at the site. “Our approach is to unload and process always on a contained area, where any potential spillage could be captured.”
Once the water is collected in the large storage tanks, it’s piped underground and fed into five connected holding tanks – 7,000 gallons each – inside the plant, Faloba says. The purpose of these tanks is to provide time for solids within the water to settle. Once the solids settle, they’re separated and fed into a screen filter – or “mud” – press, which filters impurities from the solids so the waste can be trucked to landfills.
All solids are tested before any waste is transported to a landfill, Faloba emphasizes.
The remaining water is then pumped into the large clarifying tank that removes the suspended solids, metals and adjusts alkalinity. A polymer mixture and coagulant is added, which attaches to the dirt in the water, causing the suspended solids to sink. Those solids are then separated and
transported to the mud press, where they are filtered out and ultimately transported to a landfill. The residual water is pumped back into the cleansing process.
“We adjust the pH, which we monitor in real-time,” Faloba notes of the process. Once the pH levels are adjusted to comply with EPA regulations, the water is pumped directly from the clarifier to Warren’s wastewater treatment plant, where it’s further treated to reduce salinity, processed and tested.
Once the water meets EPA standards, it’s pumped into the Mahoning River, he says.
The company employs just fewer than 25 people and is looking to hire more, Blocksom reports.
Blocksom says his company intends to develop two other sites – a former General Fireproofing plant in Youngstown and the former Calex Corp. plant in Campbell – but clarified that they probably would not be processing and treatment centers.
“We found Warren is conducive with their waste streams and works well with Patriot’s model,” Blocksom says, where the Youngstown and Campbell sites are not. “We are going to develop and create jobs there as well.”
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