An investigation is getting underway into why a Wyoming County natural gas well began spewing highly pressurized fracking fluid from Wednesday evening into Thursday afternoon.
More than 200,000 gallons flowed out of the well before it was successfully capped yesterday.
Clean-up crews are still on the site, which is located north of Tunkhannock. The state Department of Environmental Protection has sent staff to conduct air and water quality testing. A mile-long stretch of Keiserville Road, where the incident occurred, has been partially re-opened.
Three families who lived within a 1,500 foot radius of the spill were evacuated from their homes, but were able to return Thursday evening. The drill operator, Carrizo Marcellus LLC, has agreed to provide them with bottled water until testing can be completed.
“This is the first major incident we’ve had on a gas well site,” says Euguene Dziak, Wyoming County EMA director,” I expected a lot more issues when the industry hit town, and really, they’ve been pretty good.”
Dziak says he’s fielded several calls from residents who live outside of the 1,500 evacuation radius and are concerned about their water quality.
The company has agreed to test the water of anyone who is concerned.
“If they ask us, we’ll do it.,” says Carrizo spokesman Richard Hunter.
DEP records show Carrizo has drilled 85 wells since 2009. The company has been fined four times and paid penalties totaling $113,018.
Hunter says that’s a relatively small amount, and just the normal part of doing business.
“As careful as you can be, you are still going to be in violation of certain things and end up paying fines,” he says, ”We’re very proud of our environmental record and we’re dismayed and saddened that we had the uncontrolled well event.”
The well was in the final stages of the hydraulic fracturing process when a specialized piece of equipment, known as a “frack tree” failed, and water began spraying out uncontrollably.
Hunter says earlier reports that a drill bit was stuck in the well were incorrect.
“There couldn’t be any equipment in the well when you’re doing a frack job, because it would be in the way.”
The fracking fluid is still on the site in containers and may be re-used in the future.
“The DEP [may or may not] give us permission to go back and to resume normal operations,” says Hunter. “I don’t know when that will be.”