Patriot Water Treatment LLC has a hearing today in Columbus before the Environmental Review Appeals Commission - the next step in the company's fight to resume sending treated brine water to Warren.
At issue is the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's issuance of new permits to the Warren Water Pollution Control Department and to Patriot that banned Warren from accepting treated brine water from Patriot, effective April 1. On that date Patriot owner and president Andrew Blocksom issued two-week notices to all 25 employees. The two weeks were up on April 14.
The water, which is a byproduct of oil and gas drilling, was Patriot's sole product and the reason the Warren company opened.
In March, ERAC ruled that OEPA Director Scott Nally did not have legal standing to revoke Patriot and Warren's original permits. Patriot's attorney, April Bott of Dublin, said Nally interpreted that ruling "differently."
Nally, rather than revoking the old permits, issued new permits in their place that included prohibitive language, a play Bott called "semantics."
Bott said OEPA is attempting to justify its decisions by interpreting parts of Ohio Revised Code that apply to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, not the OEPA.
She said Nally is citing a section of the Ohio Administrative Code that allows his agency to look at businesses' compliance with all applicable laws, and through that has argued that Warren is in violation by accepting Patriot's water. However, Bott claims ODNR has never found Warren or Patriot in violation of that code.
Furthermore, said Bott, OEPA employees have already testified in depositions that their agency cannot interpret laws relative to another agency when considering a permit.
ERAC will determine, among other matters, whether Nally had standing to issue the new permits that essentially put Patriot out of business.
OEPA spokesman Mike Settles has said that the new permit issued to Patriot does not ban them from treating brine, but would require them to find a different approved use for it other than sending it to Warren.
Blocksom has said such a change would require an additional investment of millions of dollars as his system is designed specifically for treating the brine. He said he would also have to retrain his workers at the company's expense, investments he says he is unwilling to make based on a permit that could be revoked again.
Bott said the hearing will take three days, after which the ruling could take months. However, she said the company is requesting an expedited ruling in the interest of returning its employees to work.
"There are 25 families without jobs because of this, and I think it's criminal if we lose track of that," she said.