A natural gas blowout in Bradford County, Pennsylvania has heightened concerns about the safety of a particular gas extracting process. Last Tuesday thousands of gallons of natural gas drilling waste fluids seeped onto farmlands and nearby streams for more than 12 continuous hours due to “equipment failure,” as described by Chief Jennings of the Canton Fire Department. Seven families were asked to evacuate. All have returned except one, who has been temporarily relocated until further safety measures are taken.
The fluid was contained and emergency crews were able to prevent further leakage into neighboring Towanda Creek by Wednesday afternoon using “secondary containment mechanisms”.
“Evidently the crack is in the top part of the well below the blowout preventer”, deputy director of the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency, Skip Roupp, explained on Wednesday afternoon. Further investigation was necessary because investigators did not “really know what happened yet.”
Initial scene sampling was conducted in areas surrounding the accident indicating little significant effect to local waterways. But residents and environmentalists are wary that the particular technique used to extract natural gas from this area could be a dangerous process that can pollute the water. The method, called “fracking”, is a process involving the addition of millions of gallons of water to cause enormous pressure used to crack underground rocks, in turn, releasing the needed gas.
Brian Grove, director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy, could not say whether drilling will resume in the well until further investigation and precautions are taken.
Photo credit: epa.gov/sciencematters/june2010/images/fracking.jpg