About three dozen people turned out last week to hear an ADEQ engineer talk about a permit that would allow treated drilling water to be released into a stream that flows into a creek classified as an Extraordinary State Resource Water (ERW).
The permit that SEECO Inc. is seeking would allow the company to treat up to 164,000 gallons of chemical-laden water a day at the facility. The path of the treated water would be an unnamed tributary to Linn Creek to the North Fork of Cadron Creek then to Cadron Creek and into the Arkansas River.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality engineer Guy Lester, who wrote the permit, said the company will be held to "stringent" standards for the quality of the water that will be treated with reverse osmosis, which Lester described as a "really really really expensive" operation.
Lester said after the water from the drilling sites is cleaned, it will be "almost pristine."
When asked by an audience member if he would dip a cup into the discharge location and drink it, Lester responded that reverse osmosis is "the best treatment you can have."
John Bailey of the ADEQ water division said he would not advise anyone to drink water straight out of a river.
"You aren’t country," the audience member shot back, adding, "things are going bad in this community."
Showing a slide of a fox guarding a hen house, Lester explained that SEECO would "self-monitor" to make sure discharged fluids are clean before they hit the tributary. He said he knew allowing companies to police themselves worry some, but he said fines could be heavy and permits could be revoked if reports and inspections showed anything to be concerned about. Some of the reports on water quality will be turned in monthly, some quarterly, and some more often.
Lester said there are four other sites in Arkansas that have been permitted for recycle facilities, but none have yet been built.
"We don’t like being the first," said one audience member.
Lester said the permit would also allow SEECO to accept contaminated fluids from other companies to clean at its facility that would be built in Bee Branch and named the Jared Wood Water Reuse/Recycle Facility.
Audience member Don Richards, a member of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, wanted to know why the permit didn’t require that all of the treated water be reused because so many millions of gallons of water are needed for fracking.
During public comments after the presentation, Richardson said that he is a scientist and believes in science."This will turn out good water," he said. "But some places should be protected. This is an ERW stream and we shouldn’t gamble with this no matter how remote the possibility" of problems.
"I don’t want to see one drop of that water going into an ERW," he said.
Alice Andrews of Little Rock said she was concerned about the cumulative effect of the treated water on the rivers and said other chemicals should be tested for, including benzene.
"I would like for SEECO executives to invite the public to watch them drink the first few gallons of discharge," she said, adding that she intended that comment to be humorous.
After listening to a detailed explanation of how the process of reverse osmosis works, one woman in the audience asked, "What can we do here tonight to stop this?"
Bailey responded that as long as SEECO provides all the requested information, the permit was likely to be granted.