|We're not supposed to drink what?|
Popular Mechanics featured an article on Tuesday's well spill in Leroy Township, Bradford County, PA. The well operated by Chesapeake Energy erupted just before midnight April 19th, sending thousands of gallons of contaminated frack fluid over the earthen berms surrounding the well pad and down through farmlands to a nearby creek which flows into the Susquehanna River. The well is Atgas 2H located about 175 miles northwest of Philly. The mishap occurred while the crew was in the middle of a "frack job." Although the investigation into this accident is not complete, officials believe a steel coupling located beneath the well's blowout protector, but above ground, failed, allowing the flowback to gush out. This blowout protector is the same technology as the device that failed in the Gulf oil spill one year ago this week. What happened in Leroy is not being described as a blowout which would have involved an explosion and methane release into the air. However, there was no way to immediately stop the flow of water. As the PM article siad, "there was a lot of water." Normally this flowback is collected in pits or tanks, processed to remove some of the contaminents, and then partially reused in other wells. However, some of the waste is trucked out of state or worse, diluted and released by treatment facilities into rivers and streams.
Prior to the incident this week, there had been days of steady rain which had partially filled the containment pits, causing the pits to overflow when the accident occurred. Then the berms failed as well. DEP officials have warned farmers to stop their cows from drinking surface water. [And we know how easy it is to monitor cows.]
Investigators did not immediately disclose the chemical make-up of the fracking fluid that escaped. Some of the chemicals are proprietary, making it impossible for emergency workers to know what to test for or treat for. Popular Mechanics said,
If initial estimates are accurate, it would make Wednesday's incident the most serious fracking accident in the history of Marcellus Shale development.That is quite a claim to make.
|Methane bubbles in the Susquehanna in Sugar Run|
Credit: Don Williams