Well blows frack water in Bradford County

In LeRoy Township in Bradford County near Canton, Pennsylvania, a well blew out last night while Chesapeake Energy was fracking the well. According to WNEP TV, there is "a massive operation" by officials and Chesapeake to control the spill. According to their story, "the well blew near the surface, spilling thousands and thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze." However, there were no injuries.

However, the spill has already reached Towanda Creek which flows to the Susquehanna River. DEP will monitor water near the blowout. Watch the story here:

It is curious that the reporter in this story does not name the specific or types of chemicals that would come back up from a fracked well. The story mentions the high salinity of the water but nothing about known carcinogens like benzene or naphthalene, the biocides or lubricants involved, nor the radioactive materials or total dissolved solids (TDS) that "produced water" from a well contains. In a world where we hope that the news can serve us well, this particular aspect of reporting seems woefully lacking in its ability to provide the public with information that could serve its interest. If this case is like others, then the cattle at that farm will be quarantined for fear of milk or meat contamination.

This is also especially interesting given that "The Landman's Manual" was recently leaked (highly recommended reading). In this manual used by people who go to property owners to lease their land to gas companies. In it, they instruct landmen to do the following things. On fracking they advise the following:
"Hydraulic Fracturing, 'Fracking' - This technique to develop gas resources is coming under scrutiny, both in the mainstream media with articles appearing in the New York Times, and even in Hollywood with the movie 'Gasland'. Expect questions on this topic and be ready to diffuse land owner concerns."
Further, they say,
"If anyone knows about slick water fracturing, avoid the topic. DO NOT discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water fracturing. The best strategy is to say that the chemical mixtures used are proprietary and are highly diluted with water when injected. Reassure landowners that no well contamination has ever been documented. Do not mention water contamination in Pennsylvania."
This news report seems to follow a slightly weaker version of this kind of policy. Avoid alarm, there is nothing to fear, and continue as if this is business as usual. In fact, the neighbor who has refused to leave seems like he has adopted this position.

Like writers at Grist and Desmog Blog, the tragic irony that this is occurring on the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster has not been lost on us. And it's hard to look at this and not feel frightened by these events. To paraphrase what Barb Jarmoska from the Responsible Drilling Alliance told us a two weeks ago on the show, we are in a precarious position in Pennsylvania. It's enough to wonder how responsibly gas extraction can be done.

It will be interesting to see how activists, officials, elected officials, and regulators act in days to come.

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