Water withdrawal site OK’d in Falls

Published: November 5, 2010

TUNKHANNOCK – A sand-and-gravel company in Falls Twp. secured local permission Thursday to withdraw water from Buttermilk Creek for gas well drilling.

The township zoning hearing board approved the variance for Geary Enterprises, which operates a quarry and processing plant along Buttermilk Road.

Owner William Geary Jr. told the board his company already has a permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for the withdrawal of up to 99,999 gallons a day, with a maximum of 68 gallons a minute. Mr. Geary said the water will be taken from the site for use in the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, at gas wells.

Mr. Geary said he has not contracted with any gas company yet. The withdrawal operation is speculative, he said, based on the imminent expansion of the gas industry into Wyoming County.

He stated that there would be no fracking chemicals or any other substances on the site, which would merely be used for withdrawal of fresh water.

Mr. Geary told the board he is still awaiting a minor modification of his existing mining permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow the withdrawal site. He said he has also applied for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for a minor encroachment on wetland adjacent to the creek.

The board granted the variance conditional on the receipt of those two permits.

Mr. Geary said studies of the creek dating back nearly 70 years have shown the average creek flow rate is about 3,000 gallons a minute, so the water taken out should have minimal effect.

In addition, Mr. Geary said the SRBC has tied its permit for the site to the flow rate of the Lackawaxen River in northern Wayne County. He said if that river’s rate falls below a certain level, the operation must shut down, and remain offline until the river is back over the minimum rate for at least 48 hours.

SRBC review docket No. 20100907 notes that the Lackawaxen gauge is used because “local stream monitoring may not be practicable.”

Mr. Geary said water will be drawn from the creek into storage tanks, then trucks will take water from the tanks to well sites. That will enable water to be pumped continuously, while having trucks coming in and out only during daylight hours.

He said there would be about 20 trucks a day accessing the site via Buttermilk Road and Route 92. Because his company already operates heavy trucks in the area, Mr. Geary said the extra traffic should have little to no additional effect on roads.

Contact the writer: mrudolf@wcexaminer.com

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Copyright: The Scranton Times