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Breaking: Wyoming County, PA fracking flowback blowout causes spill, evacuation

March 15, 2013
Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2013:03:14 11:53:45

Mike Mullen/Staff Photographer A Wyoming County gas well, run by Carrizo Oil and Gas, malfunctions, shoots wastewater into the air Thursday.

Update: Seven homes were evacuated, according to WNEP, not three or four as had been previously reported.

WASHINGTON TWP. – Three Wyoming County families near a malfunctioning natural gas well were evacuated Wednesday night and Thursday as thousands of gallons of fluid waste escaped from the well before crews could shut it down.

Laure Legere, of the Times Tribune, reports (late evening, March 15th 2013):

The Marcellus Shale well on Carrizo Oil and Gas’ Yarasavage pad off Keiserville Road began malfunctioning during a fracking operation at around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.

The problem worsened overnight when natural gas was detected leaking from the well and the salty, chemically treated wastewater flowed out at a rate that peaked at around 800 gallons per minute before subsiding, according to the company and regulators.

Gas company and specialty well control crews regained control of the well by early Thursday and had it capped by the afternoon.

About 5,400 barrels, or 227,000 gallons, of the fluid was captured in tanks and trucked off site, Ms. Connolly said. Some of the fluid ran off the pad but crews built a temporary catch basin across the road to contain it, she said.

Four families within 1,500 feet of the well site were asked to evacuate on Wednesday night because officials were concerned that as the fluid in the well was released to the surface, gas would blow out behind it.

StateImpact also reports on the incident.  — including the lowdown on driller Carrizo, which has paid only in the neighborhood of $20,000 in fines from 48 violations in Pennsylvania so far. Fracking can cost a driller a million a day, so that level of fine is not noticeable.

An alert StateImpact reader did the math and asked, “So where are the other 400,000 gallons of toxic fracking juice?” (a rough estimate, based on the data provided so far, of the amount of fracking flowback unaccounted for).  Another alert reader notes that according to OSHA, a blowout is defined as an “uncontrolled flow of gas, oil, or other well fluids from the well.” Therefore, this is a blowout, but lately the press only uses industry-approved language like “malfunction” or “well control incident,” which sound less scary.

Video is included in the Pennsylvania Home Page, where an alert reader posted a fascinating comment taken from shale gas driller Carrizo’s own risk assessment statement.

What’s in that flowback? We know it has fracking chemicals — endocrine disruptors, biocides, neurotoxins, carcinogens, the whole gang — along with toxic levels of salt, and naturally occurring toxic materials from arsenic to radium 226. Yet this flowback has “no to low levels of radiation,” according to officials on the scene. Well, which is it? If they’re not sure which it is, are they sure it’s “low”? Radium 226 in Marcellus Shale flowback has been measured at thousands of times the safe limit for drinking water.  

Read Laure Legere’s full story here.

2 Comments
  1. Eric permalink
    March 15, 2013 11:40 am

    via Ed Caswell

    Concerning the gas well incident near Tunkhannock: I find it extremely interesting that you have the DEP spokesperson Colleen Connolly on WNEP saying Methane was detected at low levels within a 1.5 mile radius of the gas well. Then you have County EMA director Eugene Dziak saying no methane was released. So, who is lying and why?

  2. Erin permalink
    April 23, 2013 3:32 pm

    Background levels of methane may have already been present in the surrounding area, which would make the two statements valid

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