Sustainable Medina County, a grassroots organization that opposes the NEXUS pipeline and compressor station, used recent Earth Day festivities as the backdrop to screen a video the organization said shows invisible air pollution at the Wadsworth Compressor Station.
But company and state officials question the science Sustainable Medina County is using as the basis for the video.
According to Kathie Jones, a spokeswoman for Sustainable Medina County, a group of concerned residents recently invited Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, to capture video at the compressor station using an FLIR GF320 camera, which is a type of infrared camera. This is after the organization paid for air testing last year.
“Why we did have a gentleman come out to do that infrared photography is because when you go by that compressor station on Guilford Road it just looks like a big building. It doesn’t look like anything is coming out of it,” Jones said Friday. “We know that there’s toxins being released … you can’t see it with the naked eye, you can only see it with infrared photography.”
Sustainable Medina County’s claims of pollution are not accurate, NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker said.
“The group’s news release attempts to sensationalize the operation of the station, all while acknowledging that the facility holds a permit from the Ohio EPA which went through an extensive regulatory review and public comment period nearly three years ago,” Parker said in an emailed statement sent Monday.
NEXUS, first proposed in August 2014, is a business partnership of Detroit-based DTE Energy and Spectra Energy, which is owned by Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc. The pipeline travels through almost a dozen Ohio counties, into Michigan and then to a hub in Canada.
It took almost a year to build, but the transmission pipeline was finished late last year. Construction on the 255-mile, $2.1 billion pipeline started in October 2017. It has the capacity to deliver about 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets in Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.
The pipeline route carries it across parts of Wadsworth, Guilford, Montville, Lafayette, York and Litchfield townships.
Parker said emissions from the compressor station in Wadsworth are comparable to normal, everyday businesses.
“The NEXUS Wadsworth compressor station utilizes turbines powered by natural gas. There are hundreds of similar compressor stations throughout the United States,” he said. “While there are emissions associated with the operation of these turbines and the station as a whole, the permitted emissions of the compressor station are comparable to dry cleaners, gas stations and small paint shops.”
Parker said natural gas compressor stations are subject to federal, state, and local air quality, safety and other regulations.
James Lee, spokesman for the Ohio EPA said in an email Tuesday, regulations applicable to the Wadsworth compressor station do not require zero air pollution.
“The majority of emissions from gas release events are associated with routine planned operations such as startup and shutdown, reduced pressure demand events or maintenance activities,” he said. “The Akron Regional Air Quality Management District staff inspected the Guilford Road facility on March 15 and initial results of testing indicate the facility was operating in compliance with its permit.”
Lee said Ohio EPA staff will follow up with NEXUS to discuss the Sustainable Medina County video.
“It’s important to understand that FLIR-style camera images can be useful for detecting emissions or leaks that might not have been otherwise visible,” Lee said. “However, these cameras generally do not provide a definitive indication of the types of gases or amounts that are being emitted.”
Jones said Earthworks created the video and it produced the still photos Sustainable Medina County has circulated as well.
Lee said an environmental organization or local residents with evidence that the facility is not operating in compliance with the terms of the permit, Ohio environmental rules or laws, or have an air quality complaint, should contact the Akron Regional Air Quality Management. Complaints can be submitted at www.araqmd.org.
Jones said Sustainable Medina County will continue its efforts to educate Medina County residents about the pipeline and compression station.
“We did show (the video Saturday) and several people did stop by,” Jones said Tuesday. “Actually, it went over well because people were surprised and they really took it seriously. I mean, they were concerned when they saw the plume coming out of the compressor station like that so there was a bit of concern.”
Parker said NEXUS is required to abide by certain terms and conditions of the permit, and is committed to doing so.
“In fact, federal regulations require the new turbines to be designed to achieve a nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission rate of 25 (ppmvd) parts per million by volume, dry basis during normal operations,” he said in an email. “The turbines at the Wadsworth station are designed to achieve a NOx emission rate of 9 ppmvd during normal operations. In addition, while this is not required by any federal regulations, we have equipped the turbines with oxidation catalysts, which are designed to significantly reduce carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants emissions.”
In addition to air testing, Jones said Sustainable Medina County is also conducting health checks for families who live near the compressor station. While Jones said she could not share information about individuals who have taken part, she said the organization has received response from community members and have begun conducting these wellness checks.
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