EAST LIVERPOOL - The Columbiana County Port Authority is joining with the city of East Liverpool to sell water for use by drilling companies.
The Port Authority board approved a memorandum of understanding this week with Aqua Terra Asset Management in which the company would find buyers to purchase city water through the Port Authority. The buyers would presumably be drilling companies active in the shale gas boom under way in the region since that is what Aqua Terra has been doing in western Pennsylvania.
"I don't know who else they would be selling it to," said Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake.
Aqua Terra first approached East Liverpool, which was interested in selling water but did not want to do so directly. Drake said East Liverpool officials asked if the Port Authority would agree to do so on its behalf instead.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the Port Authority would be allowed to sell treated city water to Aqua Terra's buyers from the two fire hydrants located on its property. Aqua Terra would be billed $9 per 1,000 gallons, of which $6.50 would go to East Liverpool, which is the fee it charges city customers. Another $1.50 per 1,000 gallons would go to the Port Authority as its fee, with Aqua Terra keeping the remaining $1.
Drake said East Liverpool's water plant currently has an excess treatment capacity of 2 million gallons per day.
The agreement requires the Port Authority to make property available along the Ohio River should Aqua Terra or another company it finds want to build and operate a facility to take untreated water directly from the river. The sale price under this arrangement would be $1 per 1,000 gallons and the water could not be resold for less than $5 (water from the river is cheaper because it is untreated). Aqua Terra or the unknown company would be required to withdraw a minimum of 250,000 gallons per day if such a facility was constructed.
"This puts the Port Authority in a position to make money and perhaps create some jobs," said board President Steve Cooper.
Drake said the Port Authority had been reluctant to get into the water-selling business because it did not want to interfere with any other communities that might be interested in doing so because of the drilling activity. He said their position changed once East Liverpool asked them to get involved.