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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spill at Marcellus Shale drilling site in Bradford County prompts evacuation

Seven families in Bradford County have been asked to evacuate following a large spill during fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale at a Chesapeake Energy well west of Towanda, Pa. Earlier reports that there was a blow-out were inaccurate, according to company officials.

A local Emergency Management official said he didn't believe the families had gone anywhere.

"It's literally on top of a mountain," said Francis "Skip" Roupp, deputy director of the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency.

According to Chesapeake spokesman Brian Grove, “At approximately 11:45 p.m. on April 19, an equipment failure occurred during well-completion activities, allowing the release of completion fluids from a well at a location in Leroy Township, Bradford County, Pa."

He said, "there have been no injuries or natural gas emissions to the atmosphere.”

Local news sources are reporting that thousands of gallons of fracking fluid have spewed over and beyond the well pad, but an official on the scene told the Patriot-News that is not accurate. "It wasn't spewed in the air," he said.

An equipment failure allowed flowback fluids to wash onto the well pad in volumes that overwhelmed the multiple containment precautions in place. The official noted those containment features were already at least partially full because of several days of rain in the northern tier.

"The theory right now is it's a cracked well casing," said Roupp at the Bradford County EMA. But no-one knows for sure, he said, because "they don't have it under control yet."

Roupp said Chesapeake had attempted to get the flowback under control by pumping drilling mud down the well, but the mud "wasn't heavy enough."

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