28 November 2010

It Begins: Fracking Spill in North Central PA

frackNewsworks is reporting that “thousands of gallons” – 13,000 to be precisely in the ballpark – of hydrofracking fluid (containing a nice cocktail of salt and toxins) have spilled from a well in North Central PA and the ground water in Lycoming County is as good as polluted. The site has already had several violations and it wasn’t until a follow-up visit that Department of Environmental Protection inspector actually found the spill. A gas valve had…been left open.
It’s currently wreaking havok on local waterways and nearby cattle.
And we’re hearing from WBNG out in Binghamton, New York, that XTO Energy (a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil), who owns the gas well pad, has hired cleanup contractor Minuteman Response to contain and “remedy” the situation, though has not offered an explanation as to why the valve was open.
DEP Northcentral Regional Director Nels Taber told PA Environment Daily: “There are also two private drinking water wells in the vicinity that will be sampled for possible impacts.”
A fence also has been installed to prevent a neighbor’s cattle from grazing in the impacted area of the pasture.
DEP inspectors have collected samples of nearby soil samples and surface water. Initial field meter readings showed elevated levels of conductivity and salinity in the spring and unnamed tributary.
Conductivity measures water’s ability to carry an electric current, while salinity measures the dissolved salt content in water. Elevated levels of both are indications that spilled fracking fluid is present.
Exxon paid $30 billion in June to merge with Texas-based XTO Energy, thus making the conglomerate the largest natural gas producer in the U.S. It has holdings throughout the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere.
Let’s review the potential damage of fracking fluid, via Nick Powell’s October 5 feature, Marcellus Shale: Jeers to Your Health:
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation analyzed wastewater in several wells in the state and found insanely high levels of radium-226, thousands of times the limit that is safe to drink. Radium-226 is a highly radioactive chemical that can lead to lung and bone cancer, among other diseases. When you take into consideration that the Delaware River and Schuylkill River watersheds are both located near the Shale, these findings are even more alarming. The New York City DEP concluded that drilling the Shale “presents potential risks to public health and would be expected to compromise the City’s ability to protect the watershed and continued, cost-effective provision of a high purity water supply.”
A big hat tip to Brendan Demelle at DeSmogBlog who points out a quote in this 2009 New York Times editorial: “If hydraulic fracturing is as safe as the industry says it is, why should it fear regulation?”
And now (still with us?), let’s review Governor-Elect Corbett’s plan to regulate Marcellus Shale and/or use some tax money to pay the DEP to, you know, get to the site sooner and maybe have more than one inspector on the site so these sorts of things aren’t overlooked.
…Oh, right.


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