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Freeport Terminals offers to pay for overpass improvement if trucks OK'd

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Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 1:41 a.m.

Freeport Terminals wants to capitalize on the growing Marcellus shale industry by trucking in hydraulic fracturing fluid in order to ship it by barge to processing or disposal facilities in Ohio.

The venture would mean an additional 30 to 50 trucks would be traveling through the borough daily to the terminals' Riverside Drive facility, Dean Marlin, Freeport Terminals director of business development, told Freeport Council on Monday.

Truck volume through Freeport would be based on drilling activity, he said, but it's likely trucks would be making trips 24 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week.

To mitigate the impact of increased truck traffic, the company is proposing to fix drainage problems and pave the chronically problematic Seventh Street underpass, which trucks use to enter and leave the terminals.

The company proposed a truck route that would move most trucks away from the Fifth Street business district and Riverside Drive onto Second and Market streets, which are state roads.

The terminals entrance would move from Dam Street to terminals property.

“This is an important piece of business for us, and it can bring some things to you, too,” Marlin said.

“There was a time when ‘the terminals' did a lot more business than it does now, and we're seeking to turn that around to attract a new business.”

Marlin and two project managers from KU Resources, Inc., an environmental engineering firm, presented the plans to council to gauge its support.

Marlin said Freeport Terminals is in talks with GreenHunter Water, a Texas-based firm that specializes in hauling and disposing of frack water, which contains salt and other chemicals drillers use to fracture the shale about a mile below the surface and extract natural gas.

GreenHunter would finance part of the estimated $256,000 cost to rehab the Seventh Street underpass, Marlin said.

Freeport Terminals would seek state grant funding, as well, he said.

Community, council support vital

Support from the community and council is critical to the company's receiving a state Department of Environmental Protection permit to transfer the frack water from the trucks to barrels and then onto the barges.

“We want to know if you think it's a fair trade-off,” Marlin told council.

No council member voiced a strong objection to the plans, but most said they wanted to hear from residents who would be directly affected.

“If we get that tunnel taken care of, I think it could solve a lot of problems,” said Councilman Doug Henry. Officials frequently receive complaints about mud and dust on borough streets caused by dirty trucks running through water at Seventh Street.

“We've struggled for years with finding a solution for the underpass,” council President Don Rehner said.

The improvements would be included in the terminals' DEP permit application as part of a “harm-benefit analysis,” in which the company lists the potential harms to the community and how it will eliminate them or compensate for things such as more truck traffic.

The permitting process takes six months to a year and requires a public hearing in the affected community.

The permit would limit the number of daily truck trips to the maximum the terminals specify in the paperwork.

To increase it, the company would have to go through the permit process again.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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