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Pennsylvania fracking explosion contaminates water, farmland

In an accident reminiscent of last year’s massive oil spill in Calhoun County, a natural gas hydrofracking operation in Pennsylvania suffered an explosion Tuesday evening and spewed huge quantities of chemicals into the surrounding area.

Bradford County’s director of public safety said a Chesapeake well went out of control late Tuesday night. That means 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.

DEP is taking ground water and stream samples to determine the extent of the spill.

Officials said fluids from the well have, in fact, contaminated Towanda Creek which feeds into the Susquehanna River.

Like Calhoun County, local residents have been evacuated. In a press release, environmental group Earth Justice said:

“We appear to be marking the one-year anniversary of the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico with a gas well blowout in Pennsylvania today. Considering the sad state of regulatory enforcement in Pennsylvania and other drilling states, it is sadly not at all surprising. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has all but completely turned over environmental oversight to the gas drilling industry – requiring inspectors with first-hand knowledge of problems on the ground to get individual approval from the Deputy Executive Secretary at the Department of Environmental Protection before issuing any violations to gas drillers. For all we know, a notice of violation for the Bradford County site has been sitting on the DEP Deputy’s desk for a week.

“And yesterday’s announcement asking drillers to keep gas drilling wastewater out of rivers and steams is, frankly, small comfort. All the Governor has done is to ask nicely. He has not backed up his request with any enforcement orders. Even if companies choose to do as he’s asked, the massive quantities of polluted water industry is generating has to go somewhere. If, instead of dumping wastewater into rivers and streams, we see them start spraying it over roads and fields – a practice innocuously dubbed ‘landfarming’ by industry — then we are going from bad to worse.

“How many wells need to blow out, how many people need to get sick, how many communities need to be devastated before elected leaders say ‘enough is enough.’ The gas has been there for millions of years, it can stay there a little longer until we figure how – and if – we can extract it safely.”

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