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Fracking Well Leak Spills 1,600 Gallons Of Oil Drilling Lubricant Into An Ohio Tributary

ON MAY 9, 2014 AT 11:48 AM

About 1,600 gallons of oil-based lubricant leaked into an Ohio river tributary this week, after an equipment failure at an oil and gas well.

The rig site is located in southeastern Ohio near the town of Beverly, and is owned by PDC Energy Inc. One of the company’s contractors is handling the cleanup, under the supervision of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency. A spokesperson for PDC told the Associated Press that workers at the site noticed a build up in high pressure in the well, but were unable to contain it thanks to malfunctioning equipment at the well head.

That released the oil based fluid, called “mud,” which is used to lubricate the equipment in the well bore during drilling. The mud reached a creek that serves as a tributary to the Muskingum River, and cleanup crews are using containment dams to prevent the fluid from spreading any further.

Both the sheriff and fire departments for Morgan County were called in following the leak, and PDC paid to relocate several nearby residents to ensure no one would be harmed if leaking natural gas led to an explosion. Officials said the spill was contained by Wednesday, though also added it could be harmful to marine life.

The well had been intended for hydraulic fracturing, but the franking process hadn’t yet begun when the leak occurred. PDC Energy has 15 active wells in Ohio and permits for 18 more, but this is the only reported spill the company has in the state. It did suffer a spill of franking fluid at a Colorado well in February of 2013.

Other areas of the country have not been so fortunate. Two oil field workers were killed and nine others injured in an explosion at a well in Texas last week. The oil and gas industry actually has a fatality rate that’s almost eight times the average rate for most industries. A total of 545 people were killed in oil and gas industry accidents between 2008 and 2012, and 18,000 suffered amputations, broken bones, burns, or other injuries.

Back in April, a BP-owned pipeline spewed a mist of crude oil and natural gas over 20 football-fields-worth of Alaska; in March, an oil barge collision near Texas City spilled up to 168,000 gallons of oil; in February, a tugboat crashed into another oil barge, spilling about 31,500 gallons, and forcing 65 miles of the Mississippi River to shut down; back in Ohio, 20,000 gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline in March; and two separate train derailments, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Virginia, spilled 3,000 to 4,000 gallons and about 50,000 gallons of oil, respectively.

Overall, more than 120,353 barrels of hazardous liquids, including crude oil and other forms of petroleum, spilled in 2013 in 622 different incidents. That’s more than double the 45,934 barrels spilled in 570 incidents in 2012.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is in charge of handling and monitoring gas and oil drilling permits in the state, and will investigate this latest spill.

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