Energy. Environment. Economy.

DEP Begins Probe of Wyoming County Gas Well Spill

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas well in Washington Township began spewing fracking fluid Wednesday evening. More than 200,000 gallons were released before the well was successfully capped Thursday afternoon.

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.”


  • suegarelik

    Does anyone measure the output of methane from a leak like this?

    • Mark No Frack McCloskey

      That is an excellent idea. I can imagine them saying that it is a negligible amount like the radioactivity in the Marcellus shale flow back water. No worries about the environmental or health impacts. It’s negligible.

      • PA-digger

        There is no radioactivity in drilling or fracking. All tests have proven beyond any scare tactic you may introduce that the measure of radioactive components is exactly the same as the surrounding land and is the natural level of the earth.

        • Tam

          Mr. Digger, The deep earth holds the possibilities of radium and harmful properties in the return with the back flow water, the water that is accidently spilled, used to de ice roads, and deposited somewhere at great cost, by more drilling, trains and trucks to somewhere like Ohio. I still wonder about a big truck at 3am on Cedar Run, mystery tank truck at the edge of the water…are they picking up water at 3am or are they discharging?
          The radium possibilities are documented since Day One. our sewage treatment plants can not extract the radium, if it is present. Let the “natural radiation level of the earth” -stay in the 9000 foot deep earth where it belongs. ban fracking now, if only for this reason, to save our children from all these “possibilities” as a result of spill violations, documented by the DEP, EPA and the industry. Wishing there were not sick kids, animals, tainted water, doesn’t that scare you? Pa. people are not expendable to the industry! Not one of us.

    • PA_digger

      there is no issue with lost methane. It is lighter than air and has left the area.

      • Tam

        Mr. Digger, What happens to our climate with UN-LIT methane release?
        Do you know it is more potent than CO2? We are spiking temp. heights unknown to man, we are in a new Epoch of life. This is scientifically documented, No matter what you think about global warming, it is happening now. Our 4 seasons are out the door, our Arctic is dramatically reducing in size, the water levels are rising, the coral reefs are no longer in color with temp. change. Methane discharge is a huge huge destructive player, methane ‘unlit’ accelerates climate change. Gas leaks from the pipelines, as we already know, just from measurements in any city, USA. Stop the pipelines, no exports. We are not an energy colony. We are a state of recreation,(which brings in more than industry), of generations of families in recreation, a watery state of pristine streams lacerated by clearcutting , new bridges for industry, pipelines and disregard for what God has given us to tend. His garden. Mother Nature is more than impatient, she is raging.

  • Wanda

    Are you all going to follow this up with a call to the Center for Disease Control’s ATSDR?

  • Jay

    What was in the frack fluid besides radiation?

    • Tam

      also in the frack fluid is a lot of anger, and resentment from the industry, that
      they screwed up on this one. This huge atrocity is only one well. How dare they not only steal our water, but also vomit it back on us with thousands of pounds of their chemicals and deep earth brine and KNOWN deadly compounds of the deep earth? Who’s devious idea is to endanger so many people, waters, farms, animals, communities, roads, bridges, worker’s lives, and our air ??? Devil get behind me.

  • Ed Caswell

    initially they said 800 gallons per minute were flowing out. They then said they slowed it to 400 gallons per minute.. Started at 6pm Wednesday – capped 1pm Thursday. This story is saying over 200,000 gallons of fluid leaked.. 400 gallons a minute x 19 hours = 456,000 gallons.. what gives?

  • Victoria Switzer

    just “the normal part of doing business”…as long as the industry and DEP think that way we are in serious trouble..

    • PA_digger

      What are the average fines issued when a WalMart is built?

  • Robert

    Jay, why would they put radiation in frac fluid? That is a very misinformed statement. The frac fluid is water with a tiny amount of gelling agent, bacteriacide, and a scale control agent. Concentrations run from 1 gallon for every 1000 gallons of water to less then 1/4 gal for every 1000 gallons. Carrizo had this under control very quickly compared to other companys and has been very open about it. I am glad that they are so quick reacting and are offering to test anyone’s water in the area.

    • Tam

      Robert, 20,000 pounds of chemicals per well is not “tiny”.
      596 identified chemicals in fracking fluids.
      (carcinogens, pesticides, biocides (substances designed to kill living things), neurotoxins (hurt brain and nervous system), endocrine disruptors. Flow back is even worse, it contains heavy metals and possible radioactive substances from in the shale layer, including arsenic, cadmium and Radium 226.
      Methane traps more heat than CO2. It is worse than coal and it is being spewed with each well. Add air pollution; ground level ozone rivaling L. A. in the heart of Montana, but in PA. there is no regulation to monitor air quality related to gas drilling. 24 hour noise and light stench and neighbors pitted against each other over leased land….. all for export to the highest bidders? seriously? Stop the Pipelines, NO exporting gas. stop the drilling, dont suck the last bit out so we leave our children with nothing to bridge to sustainable.

  • suegarelik

    Of course there is an issue with escaping methane!it is a potent global warming gas and the leakage factor makes the whole shale thing a sick joke.extra sure duper fossil fuel idiocy!

  • Liz Rosenbaum

    It is absolutely horrendous what this industry is doing to our state. One of these properties is a Pony Farm — When will it stop?

  • aar_nr

    What Would Jesus Frack?

    In this hyper Christian rural communities, how are they interpretting the bible in the sort of fashion where its perfectly fine to accept truckloads of cash, in exchange for some peripheral destruction of the beautiful natural resources that God shared?

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »