Bob Downing

WESTFIELD TWP.: A proposed Nexus Pipeline compressor station in southern Medina County would pose a health threat and increased cancer risk to neighbors, according to experts hired by a grass-roots group.

The facility between Wadsworth and Seville is likely to release benzene, formaldehyde and radon at health-threatening levels, said Joanne Belovich, a chemical engineering professor at Cleveland State, who was hired by Sustainable Medina County.

The facility would also boost levels of unhealthy ozone and particulates, and the air pollution could affect those living within 2 to 5 miles of the station, said Wilma Subra, a chemist and petrochemical facility analyst from Louisiana.

Their findings were included in submissions Tuesday to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at a public hearing on air permits for the compressor station in Guilford Township. The meeting drew an overflow crowd of 400 to Cloverleaf Elementary School.

The compressor station will not cause health problems, EPA spokesman Mike Hopkins repeatedly said.

The companies behind the 255-mile Nexus Pipeline — Texas-based Nexus Gas Transmission LLC., along with Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. and Texas-based Spectra Energy Partners — say compressor stations like the one in Medina County are needed to provide pressure to keep natural gas flowing in the pipeline.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, representing Sustainable Medina County, called the station “a genuine public health threat and problem. “There are a lot of concerns,” he added.

Two Medina County neighbors and one of the hired experts held a news conference before the EPA meeting.

Brian and Jennifer Heller of Guilford Township live across the street from the proposed station and are worried about the release of formaldehyde that occurs in natural gas. Jennifer Heller is allergic to formaldehyde and fears that the plant will threaten her health and the health of the couple’s three children.

“We’re not very happy,” Brian Heller said. “It’s real scary.”

The family is looking at finding a new house, but aren’t sure anybody will buy theirs, he said.

Michael Smith of Guilford Township lives within a half mile of the proposed facility. He grows organic food for his family and is worried that the station will make that food unsafe.

His wife, Tawnya, has asthma and that might get worse with the plant so close, they said.

The compressor station “demonstrates everything wrong with the Nexus Pipeline scheme,” said spokeswoman Kathie Jones of Sustainable Medina County. “It is being jammed down the throats of the community, which has been stripped of local controls to keep it out; it will transform a heavily populated region with 24-hour-per-day toxic contamination; the public is being forced to put up with a public health threat that adds no value to Medina County; and the OEPA regulators are already telling us they have no power to stop it if the right boxes are checked.”

Opponents used the EPA meeting to muster support against the $2 billion pipeline that would run through Summit, Stark, Wayne and Medina counties, in addition to expressing concerns about the compressor station.

Activists were busy collecting signatures on petitions that the Coalition to Reroute Nexus, a grass-roots group fighting the pipeline, is planning to submit to federal and state EPA. The petitions say the community is opposed to the location of the compressor station and says the EPA has failed to show that emissions from the station would be safe.

The Ohio EPA has recommended approval of the air permits for the compressor station. It would be located on a 75-acre farm at 8707 Guilford Road just north of Interstate 76.

It is one of five compressor stations along the pipeline from Columbiana County in Ohio’s Utica Shale to Defiance in northwest Ohio and north into Michigan where it would connect with an existing pipeline.

Other compressor stations are planned in Hanoverton, Clyde, Waterville and Salineville.

The Medina facility would release about 77 tons of pollutants into the air annually including volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates, but that level will not cause problems, the EPA says.

The pipeline would be 36 inches in diameter and capable of transporting 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, enough to heat 6 million houses.

The federal agency is expected to rule in late 2016. The companies behind the pipeline would like to begin construction in January 2017.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.