ohio EPA

BG officials want answers about Nexus pipeline spill

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline officials have some explaining to do. Bowling Green officials were satisfied with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s response to a spill last month of 20,000 gallons of non-toxic drilling fluid north of the city. But the response of the pipeline company has left the city with some questions. For example, City Council members Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette have asked: – When did the spill happen? Ohio EPA officials have said the spill was reported on July 17. However, emails from Nexus officials have stated the spill occurred on July 16. – How quickly did Nexus report the spill? Was the reporting done in a reasonable timeframe? – What kind of bentonite was involved in the spill? Though non-toxic, if it was the acidic form, are measures being taken to mitigate and monitor potential harm? – Does the Ohio EPA consider the Nexus decision to halt cleanup efforts at night a reasonable response? – Should Nexus crews have been prepared to work through the night? When contacted by Bowling Green Independent News about some of these questions, Nexus officials declined to talk on the phone and asked for the questions to be submitted in writing. A Nexus emailed statement said the pipeline company “remains committed to safe and environmentally responsible practices, including constructing the project in accordance with applicable environmental permitting requirements.” Though previous emails from Nexus stated the spill occurred on July 16, when asked about the conflicting dates, Adam Parker, who handles stakeholder engagement for Nexus gas transmission, changed the date to July 17 at approximately 6 p.m. The Ohio EPA has stated that Nexus crew members left the scene of the spill rather than continuing to clean up. Parker stated the Nexus crews temporarily suspended activities due to safety concerns related to working along the busy road after dark. When asked if Nexus has a policy in place requiring workers to continue with cleanup until it is completed, Parker responded with the following statement: “The project’s various plans and permits were filed and approved by state and federal agencies prior to the beginning of construction. On the evening of the spill, NEXUS promptly notified the Ohio EPA, installed multiple layers of containment and worked to complete the recovery of clay and water in accordance with those plans. Nexus crews returned the following morning to continue the cleanup to the OEPA’s satisfaction. NEXUS communicated all steps taken to Ohio EPA throughout the response effort and the Ohio EPA determined that recovery efforts were complete and no further action was required.” However, the pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA not only for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid, but will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill. The drilling fluid spill into Liberty Hi ditch occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River. The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in…


Nexus pipeline spills drilling fluid into ditch north of BG

IBy JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid into a ditch north of Bowling Green. The company will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill. Ohio EPA staff responded on the evening of July 17 to investigate a Nexus pipeline site where the drilling fluid had been released into Liberty Hi ditch in Middleton Township. The spill occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River. The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA. The EPA notified Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert, who in turn notified the city of Bowling Green, since the city’s water treatment plant is located upstream of the spill. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in drilling fluids to help lubricate and cool the cutting tools. The substance is not hazardous, Gilbert said. However, bentonite creates a milky appearance in the water, so the EPA wanted the material removed from the ditch. “It’s not a huge issue environmentally, but more of a visual thing,” Gilbert said. Efforts were made to dam the ditch to keep the drilling fluid from reaching the Maumee River. However, the Nexus crew did not follow the Ohio EPA’s request to continue cleanup throughout the night, Lee said. The Nexus contractors left the site on the evening of July 17 – so the EPA had to hire environmental contractors to continue cleanup efforts overnight. Sand bag dams, silt fence, straw bales and a filter fence were all used to contain the spill. In the days following the spill, Nexus vacuum trucks were used to remove the bulk of the material from the stream, Lee said. “Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation to Nexus for the unauthorized discharge to waters of the state and will bill Nexus for the cost of the agency’s environmental response staff hours, state contractor and materials,” an EPA press release stated. The spill reportedly had no adverse effects on wildlife, Gilbert said. As soon as Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett received the call from Wood County EMA, he notified the city water plant superintendent since the incident was close to the plant. “They were not concerned about any impact on our water service or the river,” Fawcett said. The spill involved non-toxic material and occurred downriver from the water treatment plant. However, the plant superintendent made sure the water wasn’t affected. “There was no impact to the Bowling Green water treatment,” Fawcett said. Fawcett also notified Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and City Council President Mike Aspacher. “I’m satisfied with the notification and the communication,” when the spill occurred, Aspacher said. “The city was notified when the accident took place.” However, if further pipeline incidents occur in the future, Aspacher said he will make sure they are reported to all City Council members. “In hindsight, based on the level of concerns” about the pipeline, all council members will…


After years of resistance, EPA says Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Since the green algae scare in 2014 that resulted in the Toledo area being warned to not drink the water, the Ohio EPA has insisted that Lake Erie would not benefit from being declared “impaired.” But this afternoon, the EPA released a report stating the lake’s status should be changed to “impaired.” The battle has been between the state – which didn’t want the region to suffer economically from being named “impaired” – and environmentalists, who said the lake would improve only if the source of the harmful algae is identified – and the farming community that didn’t want all the blame for the algae, and didn’t want more regulation of their practices. In Thursday’s announcement, the EPA is proposing the open waters of Lake Erie’s Western Basin be designated as impaired for recreation and drinking water. This includes the area of the lake from the Michigan-Ohio state line to the lighthouse in Marblehead. The shoreline areas of the western basin and drinking water intakes had already been designated as impaired. This first assessment of Lake Erie included input from Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University Sea Grant College Program, University of Toledo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. EPA. The report identifies a science-based process for assessing impairment from harmful algae of the western basin open waters. “While designating the open waters of the Western Basin as impaired does not provide, as some suggest, a magic bullet to improve the lake, the state remains committed to our obligations under the Clean Water Act and to examine emerging science and practices that we can put in place to help improve it,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler stated in the report released today. The news was welcomed by area environmentalists, who have insisted for years that Lake Erie would only get worse if the sources of the harmful algae aren’t identified and limited. The “impaired” status will require such studies. While the farming community has made progress in self-monitoring and reducing phosphorus runoff that contributes to the algae, it hasn’t been enough, environmentalists said. One of those applauding the designation is Mike Ferner, coordinator of the Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. “This decision that took massive public insistence and a federal court suit is way overdue, but let’s get down to work now.  An impaired designation kicks off a process under the Clean Water Act that includes finding out exactly who the polluters are and the amounts from each,” Ferner stated in a press release.  “It must be completely transparent, with public involvement every step of the way.  ACLE will be vigilant to see that this declaration actually means something.” Ferner has made repeated visits to the Wood County Commissioners, trying to convince them to sign onto a resolution designating Lake Erie as “impaired.” “We think the voice of local government is important,” he told the Wood County Commissioners. The “impaired” designation would trigger a full-scale investigation of all possible sources of pollution going into the lake, and then require action to reduce that contamination. Ferner said similar action was taken in the Chesapeake Bay area, which allowed about $2 billion in federal funding to be used to solve the problems there. Prior to that, voluntary efforts were tried for…


Cleanup of contamination left at Cooper set at $1.2M

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The cost to clean up contamination left behind on a Bowling Green industrial site is expected to hit more than $1.2 million. The Ohio EPA held a public hearing Wednesday evening to explain the cleanup proposal and take citizen comments about the plan for the Cooper Standard Automotive property at 1175 N. Main St. An investigation of the site found an area contaminated by Trichloroethylene (TCE), a common industrial solvent. “TCE was formerly used in industry as a cleaning agent,” Ghassan Tafla, from the Ohio EPA Division of Environmental Response and Revitalization, explained during the public hearing. “It worked magically on auto parts to clean the grease,” Tafla said. However, later TCE was found to pose a threat to the environment and public health. It is now only used in lesser amounts by the defense department. The local contamination is believed to have occurred before Cooper Standard Automotive or Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. owned the site, since neither of those operations used TCE. Cooper Standard Automotive purchased the 25-acre site from Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. in 2004. The property had been used by Cooper Tire to manufacture rubber hoses and seals for the automotive industry. The previous owner of the site from 1964 to 1977 – Gulf & Weston – reportedly used TCE in its manufacturing of truck bodies, refuse packers and associated parts. That original company on the site is expected to be responsible for the cleanup, according to an EPA official. Gulf & Weston reportedly has insurance to cover such contamination and had made an agreement with Cooper Tire. The TCE contamination was discovered in 1986 during the removal of underground storage tanks that held xylene, which was also used to degrease equipment. The contamination has been identified in the area west of the plant building, in the area of a former above ground tank which contained TCE. The Cooper Standard Automotive plant currently employs about 370 people. Those employees are not at risk from the contamination, according to the EPA. The indoor air monitoring results showed below risk levels set to protect human life. However, a Cooper Automotive employee at the EPA hearing said when air monitoring is done in the plant, the company shuts down the production lines that create more smoke. That is unrelated to this issue, EPA officials said, but they agreed that to get an accurate picture of the air quality, the lines normally operated should not be shut down for the sampling. The site also does not pose a risk to the groundwater or soil of neighboring properties. “There is no contamination from the facility outside the boundary of the facility,” Tafla said. Interim remedial action has already been taken to reduce TCE in soil and ground water on the site. The contaminated soil was not removed, but was treated with a chemical to neutralize the TCE. That measure reduced the contaminant mass in the soil and water by 90 percent, according to the EPA report. The effort was “very successful,” Tafla said. The cleanup plan selected by the EPA calls for the following to occur: Limiting the property to industrial or commercial uses. Prohibiting the use of ground water for any purpose other than sampling to monitor contamination. Maintaining the asphalt…


EPA plan to deal with contaminants left at BG plant

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Ohio EPA has come up with a plan for dealing with contamination of an industrial site in Bowling Green. Later this month, the public will be asked to weigh in on the proposal. A plan to address contamination at the Cooper Standard Automotive property in Bowling Green will be the subject of an Ohio EPA public meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m., at Ohio EPA’s Northwest District Office, 347 N. Dunbridge Road, Bowling Green. An EPA investigation of the site at 1175 N. Main St. showed that “the contamination poses unacceptable current and future human health and environmental risks based on direct contact with contaminated surface and subsurface soil, inhalation of contaminated soil and/or ground water via vapor intrusion, and direct contact with contaminated ground water.” The contamination is believed to have occurred before Cooper Standard Automotive or Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. operated the site. However, the current owner is responsible for cleaning up the contaminant even if it did not create the problem, according to Dina Pierce, of the Ohio EPA. Cooper Standard Automotive purchased the 25-acre site from Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. in 2004. The property had been used by Cooper Tire to manufacture rubber hoses and seals for the automotive industry. Other businesses used the site for manufacturing before Cooper Tire began operations. Trichloroethylene (TCE), a common industrial solvent, is the primary contaminant being addressed by the plan. According to the EPA report, neither Cooper Tire nor Cooper Standard Automotive used TCE at the site. The Cooper Standard Automotive plant currently employs about 370 people. Those employees are not at risk from the contamination, Pierce said. “The indoor air monitoring results were below risk levels set to protect human life,” Pierce said on Thursday. The site also does not pose a risk for neighboring properties, Pierce said. “No contamination is getting offsite in groundwater or air.” The TCE contamination was discovered in 1986 during the removal of underground storage tanks that held xylene, which was used to degrease equipment. “That’s one of the leading contaminants we find in industrial sites,” Pierce said. It is suspected the TCE release occurred prior to 1972 near an above ground storage tank used to hold the TCE. Interim remedial action has already been taken to reduce TCE in soil and ground water on the site. The contaminated soil was not removed, but was treated with a chemical to neutralize the TCE, Pierce said. That measure reduced the contaminant mass in the soil and water by 90 percent, according to the EPA report. “They took some action before this plan was made,” Pierce said. Cooper Standard Automotive provided four alternatives for Ohio EPA to consider to prevent potential human exposure to the chemical. The alternative selected by the EPA calls for the following to occur: Limiting the property to industrial or commercial uses. Prohibiting the use of ground water for any purpose other than sampling to monitor contamination. Maintaining the asphalt parking lot as a cap over contaminated soil. Installing a passive ventilation system. Sampling of sub-slab soil gas and indoor air. “The whole intent of these projects is to make sure human health is protected,” Pierce said. During the Dec. 13 information session, Ohio EPA representatives will present…


Rover Pipeline ‘goodwill’ checks follow bad spill record

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Officials from Rover Pipeline – the company with 19 Ohio EPA violations so far and $2.3 million in fines and damages – presented some checks Tuesday to help first responders. The $10,000 checks, “offered in goodwill by the company,” are going to the emergency management agencies in each of the 18 counties in Ohio being traversed by Rover pipeline. Wood County is one of those on the route. The funds are to be used to purchase new equipment or offer additional training . “We hope these funds will go toward emergency first responders,” Bill Barth, senior specialist for emergency response with Rover, said as he passed on the giant checks. “We look forward to working with you.” Wood County EMA Director Brad Gilbert is grateful for the funds, but he would just as soon not have to work on a pipeline incident. He may use the check from Rover to help put a state MARCs radio system in the sheriff’s dispatch center. The $10,000 donation will pay just a portion of the total $40,000 expense. “The pressure’s on them to do the right thing during construction and operations,” Gilbert said of the pipeline. “Hopefully we don’t need it for any issues with them.” However, Rover’s accident record isn’t exactly clean. The check presentations come on the heels of Rover Pipeline being cited for a 19th environmental violation. Most recently, the Ohio EPA cited Rover for spilling contaminants into the Mohican River in Ashland County. When questioned about the level of trust counties should have in Rover, the company’s communications specialist said the 19 citations are based on Ohio EPA’s definition of a violation. “We’re showing different data,” Alexis Daniel said Tuesday as the pipeline firm prepared to hand out the giant checks in the Wood County Courthouse atrium to the EMA directors from Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties. The Rover pipeline is being constructed through southern Wood County on its way from West Virginia to Ontario, Canada. Despite the Ohio EPA’s records, Daniel said Rover has “not had an abundance of spills.” “The environment is very important to us,” she said. “We’ve been pretty diligent in following all the extra requirements” that were put in place after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission halted the pipeline work earlier this year. For more than four months, Rover had been under federal orders halting horizontal drilling at new Ohio locations due to numerous environmental violations. Among those was the release of more than two million gallons of industrial waste (drilling mud contaminated with diesel fuel) into a wetland in Tuscarawas County. The pipeline company subsequently dumped that same material into local quarries near sources for public drinking water. In this latest incident, the pipeline construction caused 200 gallons of bentonite-based drilling fluid to be released into a tributary of the Mohican River in Ashland County. Currently, Rover is also in violation of Ohio EPA’s orders from July, which required the company to file for a construction storm water general permit. The company has refused to comply with the order or pay the civil penalty. The state of Ohio filed a lawsuit against the Rover Pipeline on Friday, accusing pipeline operators Energy Transfer Partners, of discharging several million gallons of drilling fluid into local wetlands. The…


Ohio EPA promises to meet with BG on Nexus pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After months of thinking no one at the Ohio EPA was listening, Bowling Green officials are being promised a meeting on the Nexus pipeline. Mayor Dick Edwards reported to City Council Monday evening that he had received a “long awaited and very welcomed” phone call from Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler. Butler assured the mayor that the EPA is aware of the city’s concerns about the proposed Nexus pipeline being built so close to the Bowling Green water treatment plant. Butler reportedly said EPA staff and Ohio Geological Commission staff are in the process of reviewing documents sent to them from Bowling Green officials, including a concerning report prepared by BGSU assistant professor Andrew Kear. When those reviews and analyses are completed, Butler and his staff plan to share their findings in a meeting with the mayor, council, staff and members of the board of public utilities. The meeting will be public. The mayor said the EPA director also offered to facilitate further communications, including a possible meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the body that rules on pipeline projects. Edwards expressed gratitude to Butler, State Senator Randy Gardner and environmental attorney Mary Ellen Hogan, for helping to arrange the communication. Butler reportedly told Edwards that the Ohio EPA had been very focused on the problems being caused by the Rover pipeline crossing the state. But he promised the Nexus project will also get a proper review. “We’re going to give it our best scientific review,” the mayor said Butler told him about the Nexus pipeline. “I appreciate it.” Edwards said he voiced concerns about the pipeline being located 700 yards from the city’s water reservoir and “state-of-the-art” water treatment plant. Butler was aware of the city’s advanced plant, which the city has invested in excess of $10 million. Council member John Zanfardino thanked the mayor for not giving up in his pursuit to protect the water plant. “Thanks for your explanation and your persistence,” he said to Edwards. Earlier in the City Council meeting, citizen activist Lisa Kochheiser reported to council that she had gotten a response from the Ohio EPA, when Bowling Green city officials could not. The response did not offer any study of possible risks from the pipeline. “All they can do for us, is if the pipeline is built and an accident occurs, they will help with the cleanup,” Kochheiser said. She encouraged the council to file a motion to intervene to stop the pipeline, and to support a charter amendment that may appear on the Bowling Green’s November ballot that would allow the city to keep out harmful projects. “Why does a pipeline company have more right to poison our water than our right to protect our water,” Kochheiser asked. But Edwards cautioned that the motion to intervene is a costly venture, with no guarantee of success. “This is not something where you just stick your big toe in the water and run away,” he said. The mayor also said that if the city had filed such a motion, city officials would not be having conversations with the Ohio EPA or FERC, since the matter would then be in the hands of the courts.


BG to look for lead waterlines still being used in city

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In the wake of the lead contaminated water crisis in Flint, officials in Ohio are under order to identify waterlines made of lead. As a water provider, the city of Bowling Green must submit a waterline map to the Ohio EPA, showing the type of lines supplying homes – copper, galvanized iron, plastic or lead. That map must be submitted by March 9 and updated every five years, according to Bowling Green Director of Public Utilities Brian O’Connell. O’Connell explained to City Council Monday evening that the city is responsible for the portion of the waterline that extends to the curb stop, but the portion of the line going into the residence is the homeowner’s responsibility. So while O’Connell is confident the lead lines in the city’s portion have been replaced, the same cannot be said of the portions that are the responsibility of homeowners. “We are not aware at this time of any lead lines” installed by the city, he said. Since 1967, the city service lines were all required to be copper or plastic. Prior to then, lead lines were allowed, but in the 1990s any known lead service lines were replaced. The city has taken further steps to prevent lead in the water by adding corrosion inhibitors to the water. Since some residents may unknowingly have lead lines in their homes, the Environmental Protection Agency has had the city test about 30 water samples each year from residences that may have older connections to the city waterlines. In the past several years, only a handful of homes have shown any detectable levels of lead. All the others have tested as “no detect” for any lead. “I’m not trying to scare anybody,” O’Connell said. However, the risks of lead in water can be significant and long-lasting, especially to young children. “It’s an important health concern.” In a week or so, the map showing the city’s waterlines will be put on the city’s website. “The website is to educate customers about the potential of lead piping,” O’Connell said. Homes built before 1998 may also have lead plumbing fixtures, since prior to then Ohio plumbing code allowed lead in fixtures. So several Bowling Green homes may be affected, since 83 percent of the city’s housing was constructed prior to 1998. “There are no known lead service lines remaining,” O’Connell said. “But we have no record of what’s in the homes.” The information on lead waterlines being posted on the city website will try to help city residents identify if their homes may have a problem. Instructions will be offered to help residents take water samples that can be tested for lead. The water samples must be taken first thing in the morning, or after the water has not been run for at least six hours. The city will be required to notify any homeowners immediately if their water tests positive for lead. Those homeowners whose water tests don’t show lead must be notified in two to five days. More information will be posted in BG Independent News when information is posted on the city website, and when more details are available.