Is Aqua America trying to cover-up frac contamination with chlorine? Chisholm Springs (community in Barnett Shale) drinking water making residents sick, burning skin, pleas for help go unheeded just like in every toxic frac field, including in Alberta. Will oil & gas companies fully disclose all drilling, cementing, perforating, fracing, servicing chemicals, including trade secrets, so that Aqua America can properly test the water?

Video at link: Water complaints pour in from Barnett Shale region WATER SUPPLIER AND STATE OF TEXAS SAY THE WATER MEETS STANDARDS; RESIDENTS INVITE THEM TO COME DRINK IT by Brett Shipp, June 2, 2016, WFAA8

WISE COUNTY, Texas – Dirty, smelly, foul-tasting water.

For many in the Chisholm Springs community north of Fort Worth, the water has been undrinkable.

A News 8 investigation last April helped spawn a state investigation. But now, new complaints are pouring in — not just from Chisholm Springs residents, but from communities all over northern Tarrant County.

At first, it was just a few residents who complained their water smelled so foul, not only couldn’t they drink it, they wouldn’t shower in it.

“I got out of the shower, and probably within minutes, my hands were beet red and they were burning,” said Leslie Houston, a Chisholm Springs resident.

It was something in the water. It was burning their skin, giving them rashes, upset stomachs, shortness of breath, and headaches.

Once we aired the story, the complaints came gushing in from other unincorporated developments outside of Chisholm Springs.

Dirty, smelly, undrinkable water complaints from residents of at least five other nearby communities all served by the same private ground water distribution company, Aqua Texas. Many of the residents filed complaints with state regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

And the TCEQ did investigate the complaints. But just days ago, the state released its findings.

After extensive testing, investigators declared that all test results are within normal or safe ranges.

“We would not expect adverse health effects to result from drinking the water,” the report stated.

But residents we talked to last week about the results were disgusted to learn that the state would do nothing to help them out.

“I don’t buy it,” said resident Rebecca Asher. “I don’t believe it. Tell them to come drink our water. Or smell our laundry. Or when the bathtub is full and it smells of chlorine, and you don’t want to put your kids in it.”

And how thorough was the state’s investigation? Of the six residents who filed complaints, only one said they were contacted by an investigator.

And News 8 has learned that most of the water testing was commissioned not by the state, but by the private water company Aqua Texas.

In the past few days, some say their water has gotten worse. Specifically, they say the chlorine content is repulsively high.

Resident Toni Grigsby says she’s developed rashes and hives. She says her doctor warned her to not even breathe or bathe in it.

“I’ve been told not to use my water or have any contact with my water,” Grigsby said. “His advice: don’t drink it. If you can taste it, smell it, or feel it, you shouldn’t be in contact with it.”

Curious about Grigsby’s chlorine levels, we ran a simple pool test on her water. It very quickly turned a bright shade of yellow, indicating a high chlorine content.

We showed the test result to Grigsby. “It tells me that I’m bathing in chlorine,” she said.

A few blocks away, Renee Debus was disgusted by the overwhelming chlorine smell.

“The last three months, I’ve put my dog on bottled water because I’m afraid he’s going to get sick,” Debus said. She’s also worried about any contact with the water due to the excessive chlorine.

So we tested her water as well. And again, the tap water being tested turned a bright yellow.

“There’s lots of chlorine is in there,” Debus said. “The water is not drinkable, and I haven’t drank the water in eight years, at least.”

Just to give you what a normal baseline for tap water chlorine should be, we added the same five drops of testing agent to our Dallas water here at News 8 and we found no no visible trace of chlorine at all.

Officials with Aqua Texas dismiss the findings, and have issued a statement defending their water quality and insist the water “consistently meets all state and federal drinking water quality standards.”

While Aqua and state officials say the water is fine, water quality expert Zacariah Hildenbrand of Clear Environmental says the water appears to be anything but fine.

Hildenbrand and a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington have spent the past few years testing water throughout the Barnett Shale.

He says Chisholm Springs water is not only over-chlorinated, his field tests show the minerals and metals in the water measure to be nearly 1,100 parts per million (ppm).

“The drinking water standard for that is 500 ppm, so you are more than twice the federal limits,” Hildenbrand said.

“By that standard, this water is not suitable for drinking.”

Which may explain why so many refuse to drink it and why residents are saying they’ve had enough.

“When you’ve got 200 homes and everybody saying the same thing, you’ve got to do something,” Grigsby said. “They need to fix the problem.”

We have notified Aqua Texas about the Hildenbrand’s test results from this week. The following is a response from Bob Laughman, President of Aqua Texas:

Naturally occurring minerals in the groundwater can sometimes discolor water and affect its taste, and Aqua will continue to work to lessen the occurrence of these minerals. We strongly encourage any customer with a water service concern to call 877.987.2782 so we can address it.”

As for State officials, they now say they have re-opened their investigation.

Residents we’ve talked to say they still refuse to drink their water; that it still burns their skin and stinks. [Emphasis added]

New water concerns bubble up in Barnett Shale by Brett Shipp, April 7, 2016, WFAA News 8 Investigates

WISE COUNTY, TX – Several residents of a North Texas community say their well water is making them so sick they have stopped drinking it. They also say their pleas for help have gone unheeded.

They live in an unincorporated residential development called Chisholm Springs, just north of Fort Worth in southern Wise County. All 200 homes in the community are on a common water well system.

From street level, Chisholm Springs seems like an isolated slice of the American Dream. But a satellite view reveals that residents are not so alone. They are, in fact, surrounded by dozens of drilling pad sites in the heart of the Barnett Shale. one of the world’s largest natural gas fields. Some say that’s a concern.

2016 04 07 Chisholm Springs circled w frac'd wells on Texas Railroad Commission's oil gas map

A 2015 report published in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology” by a team of University of Texas at Arlington scientists shows hundreds of private water wells in the Barnett Shale are contaminated with fracking-related chemicals. That’s why Chisholm Springs’ residents are starting to worry about their water, which comes from water wells surrounded by drilling activity.

“When you can see it, when you can smell it and you can feel it, there’s something wrong,” said resident Robyn Taylor.

While no test results so far suggest the water quality issues are related to gas drilling, state officials, spurred by WFAA’s questions, say they will now be testing for fracking-related compounds. [In 2006, Alberta regulators reluctantly began their fraudulent gopher-shit sampling investigation of Rosebud citizen water wells, after affected citizens presented their contaminated water concerns and Encana’s illegal frac’s to the media and in public presentations. To this day, the chemical additives Encana injected into the community’s drinking water supply, remain secret, and completely withheld, even in response to Chief Justice Neil Wittmann’s court order for Encana to complete document exchange with Ernst by December 19, 2014]

Taylor and more than two dozen of her neighbors recently joined together at the community clubhouse to relate to News 8 the extent of the contamination, and their fears.
They all had complaints, many the same. Discolored, bad tasting and smelling water were the most common. But several told News 8 the water irritates and burns their skin.

2016 04 07 Chisholm Springs Citizens' skin burns, irritation, itching from water by Aqua America, in frac field

2016 04 07 Chisholm Springs Citizens' skin burns, irritation, itching from water by Aqua America, in frac field2

“I got out of the shower and probably within minutes, my hands were beet red and they were burning,” said Leslie Houston, who has lived in the Chisholm Springs development for 10 years. “I kept saying ‘Something’s burning my skin, something’s burning my skin.’” [That’s what Ernst kept saying to herself, but she didn’t know Encana was secretly frac’ing hundreds of gas wells into the fresh water zones in her community]

Houston said the water has always tasted so bad her family never drinks it. But she and other residents say in the past few months, rashes and skin problems have them worried. “It’s something in the water,” she said. “It has to be.”

Others told News 8 they often get headaches or unexplained dizziness in the shower or in their homes. ”I notice when I get in the shower, it gets worse,” said Phyl Hutchinson. “I get so dizzy. It’s like I’m going to pass out.”

Kim Smith said her family has rashes and is getting headaches. “You scratch and scratch,” she said. “And the headaches have really been bad in the mornings. My daughter and my husband have been getting dizzy.”

The Chisholm Springs water system is owned and operated by Aqua America, one of the largest private water utilities in the country.

Residents say they have complained to Aqua, and workers have been testing the water in recent days. But corporate spokesperson Gretchen Toner tells News 8: “We have found no information (supporting the resident’s complaints). Chisholm Springs has consistently met federal and state drinking water standards.” [If you don’t know what to test for, and you don’t look, what will you find?]

Aqua officials say recent tests for methane in the water came back negative. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates water systems in the state. When a Chisholm Springs resident recently filed a complaint, the state only ran a chlorine level test and found the water “was in compliance.”

But now that News 8 has started asking questions, state officials have said new tests for possible drilling-related contamination are being ordered. “The TCEQ will evaluate the results of samples that the system contracted an independent lab to collect,” said Brian McGovern, TCEQ spokesman. “The TCEQ investigation report is anticipated to be completed by May 20, 2016.” [But, does the regulator know what to test for in the water?]

When pressed for details on who exactly was conducting the testing, the TCEQ told News 8 they were relying on Aqua to provide them with data.

Meanwhile, Houston said she and her family avoid contact with the water and load up on skin care lotions and rash medicines. [Initially, Ernst had no reason to believe the caustic burns and rash were caused by her well water. Her doctor thought the burns were caused by industrial products, but Ernst didn’t have any in her home. Unknown at the time to Ernst, Encana had violated the Water Act and secretly frac’d the aquifer that supplies her community, the regulators knew, but instead of warning residents using the water, they covered-up Encana’s law violations and contamination. For many months, Ernst suffered painful, debilitating burns to her skin after bathing and tried every rash and skin care product she could find. Friends mailed her products too, hoping to ease her suffering. Will families in frac fields ever learn what is poisoning them and their loved ones?  Will Ernst and her neighbours? Will they ever feel safe again, in their frac’d homes?] She hopes someone will finally do something to find out what’s in the water that’s making them sick.

“I just want to move now,” Houston said. “I don’t know how it’s affected my health, my kids health, my friends and family that live out here. It’s sad that nobody takes it seriously.”

[Emphasis added]

Clevin gir den Skifergas 2:38 Min. by Jan Rosenkrantz, May 17, 2013

Clevin gir den Skifergas snap

Clevin gir den Skifergas snap2

New study of Barnett Shale area well water finds elevated levels of water contaminants by Kristin Sullivan, June 17, 2015,

A team led by Kevin Schug, UT Arlington’s Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, has published a comprehensive study of potential groundwater contamination in areas of unconventional oil and gas drilling.The peer-reviewed study, “A Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in the Barnett Shale Region,” was published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology. The Barnett Shale lies below the Trinity and Woodbine aquifers and is home to more than 20,000 unconventional drilling wells, where a method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been used to extract trapped oil or gas. Since the natural gas boom in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began almost a decade ago, some have questioned whether potentially harmful chemicals used during various phases of gas extraction and related activities would make their way into the area’s aquifers. … The newly published work is a follow up to a study the team published in 2013 that showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium in groundwater near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale. ... [Emphasis added]

‘Alarming’ study shows dangerous water along Barnett Shale by Brett Shipp, June 18, 2015, WFAA

What’s being called one of the most comprehensive groundwater studies ever done in the U.S. was published Wednesday, and, according to the lead scientist, some of its findings are “incredibly alarming.”

The tests were performed over the past two years in the Barnett Shale and purport to show a growing link between fracking and groundwater contamination.

The study is published in the trade journal Environmental Science and Technology. Dr. Zac Hildenbrand, one of the lead authors of the study who collaborated with the University of Texas at Arlington, collected samples from 550 water wells in 13 counties along the Barnett Shale.

An evaluation of water quality in private drinking water wells near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale formation

Samples were collected throughout Montague, Wise, Parker, Hood, Tarrant, Somervell, Johnson, Hill, Ellis, Dallas, Denton, Collin and Cooke counties during 2013 and 2014. The results show water contaminated with “multiple volatile organic carbon compounds throughout the region, including various alcohols, the BTEX family of compounds and several chlorinated compounds.”

Dr. Hildenbrand told News 8 by phone Wednesday that all of the chemicals are associated with the fracking industry.

“When you find a BTEX compound with a chlorinated compound with an anti-corrosive agent all in the same water well, it’s pretty shocking evidence that there’s been a problem,” said Hildenbrand. “The only industry that uses all of those simultaneously is the oil and gas industry.”

The study is quick to point out that it does not establish fracking as a source of contamination, but it does provide a strong association. [As long as the oil and gas industry (assisted by the abusive enabling regulators, environmental NGOs, academics, “experts,” media and politicians) continues to keep secret the chemicals in energy wells, frac flow back and produced wastes, who will ever be able to prove frac’ing, cementing, drilling, perforating, servicing, acid gas injection, acidizing, or waste injection as the source of contamination?]

“The conclusion we can make is where there is more drilling there is more abnormalities in the water,” Hildenbrand said.

Oil and gas industry advocates, Energy in Depth, responded to the study on Thursday.

“The authors specifically say that they cannot link contamination to unconventional oil and gas activity. Activist groups and some media are trying to manufacture a fracking link that the data don’t definitively support,” Dave Quast with Energy In Depth said.

Sharon Wilson, a North Texas environmentalist with Earthworks, said regardless of what’s to blame, the test results make it clear that using well water in the Barnett Shale is now proven to be potentially dangerous.

“It’s going to absorb into your skin, it’s going to come out in steam from the water when you take a shower,” said Wilson “When your hair is wet and you blow-dry your hair you are going to breathe that steam. So no, you need to not use your water.”

News 8 has already done a series of stories on alarming levels of methane contamination of water wells in Parker County. The oil and gas industry has already denied there is any conclusive link and says the methane in Parker County is naturally occurring.

Water Samples From Barnett Shale Show Chemicals Used in Fracking, Joint Study Says by Nushin Huq, June 17, 2015

In 381 of the wells, the study found benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, which are used in hydraulic fracturing and are not naturally occurring. Thirty-four of the wells were polluted by benzene.

“These results constitute the largest analysis of groundwater quality in aquifers overlying a shale formation associated with UOG [unconventional oil and gas] activities,”the report said.

Many Compounds Detected at Least Twice

The most striking result of the study, the authors said, is that 13 of the 39 volatile and semi-volatile compounds that were screened for were detected at least once. Methanol and ethanol were detected in 35 and 240 wells, respectively. These are both used extensively in unconventional drilling as anti-corrosive agents and gelling agents, the report said. Methanol showed a negative correlation with well depth, which might mean it was there as a result of mishandling of waste solution or fluid spills.

Of the 550 samples, 350 came from private wells serving residential purposes, 59 samples were from agricultural water wells and 141 samples came from municipal or public supply wells in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the report said. Samples were collected without prior knowledge of the oil and gas activity in the area.

The specific organics to be tested for were selected from a 2011 congressional report on hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredients, as well as frequently listed components of fluids in the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, the report said.

The information on drilling activity in the region came from and the Texas Railroad Commission, which governs oil and gas activity in Texas, the report said. Sampled water wells ranged from 90 meters away from the nearest fracked well within the Barnett Shale to 47,220 meters away from the closest well outside the Barnett Shale formation, the report said. The majority of the samples were within 1 kilometer of a well because well owners near oil and gas activity were probably more interested in having their water tested, the report said.

Relation of Water Quality, Well Distances

The scientists evaluated the relationship between water quality and both the distance to the nearest unconventional well and depth of sample well. They also conducted separate analysis to evaluate whether particular counties in north-central Texas exhibited higher or lower-than-expected frequencies with particular compounds.

 There could be a number of reasons for the contamination, the study said. Other than direct fracking fluid contamination, industrial accidents, faulty gas well casings or improper wastewater disposal can also introduce compounds into the water. Another reason that there could be an increase in metals found in water samples is because of rust and scale formation that can build up in water wells, which could be dislodged by vibrations caused by nearby oil and gas activities. 

The study: A Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in the Barnett Shale Region


On the slick website of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, a lobbying organization for the local drilling industry, an anonymous man asks a question on behalf of his worried wife. “My wife is concerned about potential contamination of our 800-foot-deep well. Who will oversee the safe drilling of the well which assures no spilling effects to the water at that level?” he asks. The industry responds underneath with an assurance that all drilling activity, including water-related issues, is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission, which is doing a great job.

But out in the real world, scientists at UT-Arlington have published a study suggesting that just maybe his worried wife isn’t so dumb after all. In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal, a research team lead by Dr. Zacariah Hildebrand documents their findings on local drinking water. His team analyzed 550 groundwater samples collected from aquifers over the Barnett Shale, the formation in North Texas that has been profitable to local drillers but slowly pissing off our nearby suburbs. The results make a strong case for a home water filter, one of the expensive ones:

We detected elevated levels of 10 different metals and the presence of 19 different chemical compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. These results constitute the largest analysis of groundwater quality in aquifers overlying a shale formation associated with UOG [unconventional oil and gas] activities.

None of those chemicals is good for us, though we’re already exposed to them from a variety of sources. Benzene in particular is a known carcinogen that environmental groups and scientists have warned for years was used by the gas industry in the fracking process. (The chemicals aren’t banned for use in drilling because of the so-called “Halliburton Loophole,” a law passed by Congress in 2005 that exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Clean Water Act).

The industry hasn’t denied using benzene in the past but has said that there’s no risk of it getting into groundwater. Such a risk, an industry spokesman told Bloomberg News last year, “would only actually exist if there were examples of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater. There aren’t.”

Locally, a Barnett Shale drilling lobbyist claims that benzene isn’t in the fracking fluid that drillers use in the Barnett Shale. “The components used in the fracking fluid here don’t contain benzene,” says Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council. “I don’t know about any other places.”

This study doesn’t outright say that drillers are the source of the benzene, just that they’re a possible source. The study’s results, the researchers write, “do not necessarily identify UOG [unconventional oil and gas] activities as the source of contamination; however, they do provide a strong impetus for further monitoring and analysis of groundwater quality in this region as many of the compounds we detected are known to be associated with UOG [unconventional oil and gas] techniques.” So, there’s a chance that the fracking industry isn’t contaminating groundwater. But your water still has benzene in it. Hurray!

The UTA study found elevated levels of numerous metals and chemical compounds associated with hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale, but stopped short of identifying drilling as the source of contamination .
by Max B. Baker, June 17, 2015, Star Telegram

Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington have found elevated levels of numerous metals and chemical compounds associated with the hydraulic fracturing process in public and private water wells throughout the Barnett Shale.

… “It’s our job to remain balanced and report what we found in an objective, scientific fashion and the fact of the matter is that many of these compounds are in some way associated with that process,” Schug said.

Environmentalists said UTA’s study proves that contamination from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is more common than what was suggested in a recent draft study released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA study said that hydraulic fracturing has not caused widespread harm to drinking water in the United States, but it also warned of potential contamination of water supplies if safeguards are not maintained.

“I would argue that 550 wells over many square miles meets any reasonable definition of widespread,” said Alan Septoff, strategic communications director for Earthworks, an environmental group. “It is not pollution from one well, but it is pollution from many wells.”

Industry representatives quickly pointed out that the study does not definitively link the drilling process to the elevated levels of the chemicals and compounds that were found.

“The authors specifically say that they cannot link contamination to unconventional oil and gas activity,” said Dave Quast, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, an industry group. “Activist groups and some media are trying to manufacture a fracking link that the data don’t definitively support.”

Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, another industry group, pointed out that some of the chemicals could be coming from sources such as agriculture. [What?  Not blaming nature?]

“You can’t take [that] leap of faith,” Ireland said. “You need to do a more comprehensive study to link the two.”

Broader testing ground

… The study found elevated levels of 10 different metals as well as the presence of 19 chemical compounds including what is known as BTEX, or benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes. These compounds are associated with oil and gas processing activities.

Schug said they found at least one BTEX compound in 381 of the 550 samples and that in a handful the benzene levels exceeded the maximum levels established by the EPA.

“These compounds are carcinogenic,” Hildenbrand said. Benzene “is a nasty, nasty chemical. You wouldn’t want to be drinking any amount of that.”

The study also found elevated levels of methanol and ethanol, both of which are used extensively in unconventional drilling as anti-corrosive and gelling agents, the study reported.

Finding benzene was a new wrinkle from the 2013 UTA study. That report, which Schug directed, did not find volatile organic compounds such as benzene. The earlier report did find contaminants such as arsenic and selenium in groundwater near natural gas well sites.

Schug said this was a much broader study and that they have been refining their methods over time. He said they didn’t have “any expectations” but he was surprised by the BTEX contamination.

The UTA study hits on concerns made in previous research efforts.

… The threat of water contamination by fracking and related oil and gas processes has been an ongoing issue in Texas. The most celebrated case was in Parker County, where resident Steve Lipsky’s video of flaming water sparked an emergency order by the EPA in late 2010. The problem had been blamed on a nearby well drilled by Fort Worth-based Range Resources.

The Texas Railroad Commission investigated and conducted tests of Lipsky’s well and at a 2011 hearing cleared Range, which had steadfastly denied contaminating the groundwater. In 2012, the EPA withdrew its emergency order, although Range agreed to continue testing 20 nearby water wells every three months for a year.

A study released last year blamed faulty drilling practices — but not hydraulic fracturing itself — as the primary cause of water contamination in the Barnett Shale.

In that study, scientists from Duke, Stanford and three other universities studied more than 130 water wells in North Texas and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Their findings suggested that methane gas found in water stems from faulty well casings and cement construction designed to protect groundwater during drilling.

Hildenbrand, who is the owner of Inform Environmental, the private company that helped coordinate the study and conducted the sample collection, said that they are “at the ground floor here trying to understand” what is going on. “If there is a problem, how do we fix it? We’re not trying to shut down drilling,” he said. [Emphasis added]

Study shows evidence of “widespread” pollution that EPA study failed to find Press Release by Earthworks, June 17, 2015

Peer-reviewed analysis released day after HB40 forces Denton City Council to yield fracking oversight to state

Washington, DC & Denton, TX — A peer-reviewed study today reveals widespread groundwater pollution in the Barnett shale from fracking chemicals. Directly countering the EPA study released earlier this month, the University of Texas at Arlington study is accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“This study suggests the Environmental Protection Agency is taking a “see no evil” approach to fracking water pollution,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel.

She continued, “The University of Texas, working independent of the oil and gas industry, found evidence of widespread groundwater pollution connected to fracking. The EPA, working for years with the oil and gas industry to study the same issue, managed not to find that evidence in its study released earlier this month. Perhaps that’s because President Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy requires favoring oil and gas over the clean, renewable energy our communities and water really need.”

… Late last night, the City of Denton, Texas was forced to repeal its ordinance enacting the fracking ban passed in November by ballot initiative. HB40, signed into law by Governor Abbott in May, effectively removed Texas communities’ long-standing right to govern oil and gas development, leaving state regulators solely responsible for protecting the public.

“Fracking water pollution isn’t a surprise to people living with fracking,” said Earthworks Texas Organizer Sharon Wilson. She continued, “But it must be a surprise to Texas regulators, who claim to have never found any. Denton was forced to repeal its ban last night. Now Denton and all Texas communities are in the hands of state government, which seems bound and determined to protect the oil and gas industry, not the public. What this study really shows is why communities must have local control to protect their own health and safety.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2015 11 15: Texas: Hydraulic Fracturing Stimulation contaminating drinking water, 25 per cent of water wells tested by Dr. Zack Hildenbrand show contamination with man-made chemicals used in fracking the Eagle Ford: “This practice is having an affect” ]

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