Fish kill in eastern Ohio might be linked to fire at Statoill’s fracking well

Fish kill in eastern Ohio might be linked to fire at fracking well by Jim Woods, June 29,2014, The Columbus Dispatch
The state is investigating a fish kill in an eastern Ohio creek near where a fire occurred at a shale-well fracking site on Saturday. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources learned today of the fish kill in Possum Creek in Monroe County, said Jason Fallon, an agency spokesman. Fallon said he did not have details about the extent of the kill. “I can’t confirm if it’s related to the gas-well fire,” he said.

Phillip Keevert, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency, said Division of Wildlife agents were inspecting the creek today and confirmed that a kill occurred. The Eisenbarth well pad caught fire on Saturday because of a malfunction in hydraulic tubing, authorities said. Fire spread to about 20 trucks lined up on the well pad, triggering explosions that spewed clouds of black smoke.

The trucks that caught fire are used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Statoil North America operates eight wells on the pad. At the height of the fire, 20 to 25 families that live within a mile of the site were evacuated. They were allowed to return home on Saturday evening.

A number of area residents reported the fish kill today. Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said he has been told that the kill stretched for a few miles. Shaner said he suspects that chemicals used in fracking ran into the creek when firefighters extinguished the blaze.

“It sounds like it was not just smoke and not just fire, but a major fish kill,” he said. “Both the company and state agencies owe the public a full public accounting of what went wrong and how they are going to prevent future occurrences.”

Statoil North America officials could not be reached for comment. All 17 of the company’s Ohio wells are in Monroe County, state records show. [Emphasis added]

Glitch sparks smoky fire at gas well by Jennifer Smith Richards, June 29, 2014, Columbus Dispatch
A Monroe County shale-well site still was smoldering last night, and some residents were sheltered at a nearby high school, after an explosive fire yesterday morning. Officials said yesterday that the fire at the Eisenbarth well pad was caused by a mechanical malfunction in hydraulic tubing and that it was limited to the equipment on the surface of the well pad, which is the area that surrounds the natural-gas wells. Flames spread from the tubing to 20 trucks that were lined up on the well pad, causing explosions and thick, black smoke that stayed for hours.

None of the 45 workers on site was hurt, state and oil-company officials said yesterday. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation. “All of the people are accounted for, and we’re not aware of any injuries reported. There probably are people being subject to examination, but it seems to be OK,” said Bjorn Otto Sverdrup, spokesman for Statoil North America, which operates the wells.

The trucks that caught fire are used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. There are eight wells on the pad, including five that have been fracked and two that are being actively worked on, said Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. One had been fracked and has since been closed. The well site is in a rural part of the eastern Ohio county along the Ohio River across from West Virginia.

The 20 to 25 families who live within a mile of the well site were forced to evacuate earlier in the day, and the surrounding roads were blocked off, said the county emergency director. By evening, families were allowed to return home or go to River High School, where the American Red Cross had set up a temporary shelter.

Five families chose not to return home.

“They were moved out as a precaution because of the chemicals in the smoke, for breathing reasons,” said Phillip Keevert, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency. “The plume of smoke overwhelmed the whole area, so you couldn’t really see the fire itself very well. The pad site is probably, I’m guessing, a 3-acre area.”

Keevert said the fire was the largest well-related incident that Monroe County has handled. He said emergency responders knew a little about the well site, including what chemicals were stored there, but had never been on it.

Richard Haslam Sr., said his home in Clarington is about 1 1/2 miles from the wells. He watched the two black columns of smoke and was interested, so he drove a little closer. Haslam said that he didn’t worry that the well fire was dangerous, and that people went on about their business, mowing their lawns and watching the firefighters work. “It’s one of those things that happens,” he said.

Haslam also said that people in the area aren’t particularly opposed to fracking. “My God, they’re 20,000 feet down in the ground. Fracking isn’t going to hurt anything around here,” he said. “The real danger is this kind of thing — fire or accidents like that.”

Sixteen pump trucks and four “blender trucks” caught fire at the Eisenbarth site, McCorkle said. Pump trucks are used to create high pressure to frack shale. Blender trucks are used to prepare fluids that are used in fracking.

Statoil North America’s Sverdrup said the “ordinary materials used in fracking — that would mostly be water, sand, small portions of chemicals and some fuels” — were on the well pad. [Emphasis added]

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