The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 23, 2013

Authority’s plant proposal stalls after promising start


JOHNSTOWN — Questions about verification

In December, Balta said the pilot plant had been set up in New Jersey, Aspen’s corporate base, and that it performed as expected. It was to be transported and reassembled in Johnstown.  

The company website says the processes “were demonstrated in field tests performed in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region.” It does not say for whom the process was demonstrated and does not identify any independent sources to verify the success.

The Tribune-Democrat last week submitted written inquiries to Reifsnyder and each of the five redevelopment authority members. The letters included questions about how the system’s results were demonstrated, including any independent verification.

In addition, Reifsnyder was asked how much volume of water will be required to make the venture profitable, and what the cost would be for treatment. That information would be crucial for drilling companies selecting treatment options.

His emailed response was:

 “Thank you for your interest in Aspen Johns­town. I would refer you to my earlier email and our company website, on which all information made available to the public can be found.”

The earlier email referred questions to the Johnstown office, but the second response noted, “Our staff is not in the Johnstown office this week.”

Of the five redevelopment authority members, only Brian Vuletich responded. He could provide no information about the Aspen process demonstrations or any economic requirements for success.

Jobs are the goal

“We see this as an opportunity to create jobs in a community that desperately needs jobs,” Vuletich said. “There are so many communities that would love to have this.”

Vuletich defended the investment of public funds to prepare Aspen’s proposed location in the authority-owned Rosedale Business Park on a plateau above the former Bethlehem plant site.

“To bring jobs, you have to make yourself very accommodating and attractive to anybody who wants to come in,” Vuletich said.

The authority members are behind their chairman, he added.

“We support Msgr. Balta,” Vuletich said. “He has done a great job to bring this in here.”

Reached at his home in the St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church Rectory, Balta would not discuss Aspen’s business plans or qualifications.

“I am not going to get into all that with you,” Balta said. “I am trying to get someone to come into town and create jobs. I don’t have any more information I can give you.”

Authority members Karen Varga, M. John Mavrodis and Mayor Thomas Trigona did not respond.

In December, Balta said he went looking for opportunities in the Marcellus Shale industry because of its growth.

“I asked: What was the need?” he said in December “The gap in the whole industry is the treatment of water.”

With its rail link, Johnstown can serve a large area of the state, he said.

“We can receive 2.1 million gallons per train,” he said. “We can take 500 trucks off the road.

“That was my vision.”

Time is of the essence, he said, noting that other locations could develop treatment depots.

“Do it now,” Balta said. “And be straight down the line. No fiddling around. No deals.”

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