On June 28, a Halliburton-controlled fracking site caught fire and spilled chemicals into the Opossum Creek, which flows into the Ohio River. The spill killed over 70,000 fish and wildlife, but state and federal officials were not given a full list of the released contaminants until five days after the incident.
The spill occurred in Monroe County, Ohio, on the Statoil North American wellpad. On June 28, the wellpad was under the supervision of Halliburton, which was hired to frack a horizontal well near the Opossum Creek. The fire began in the morning when a hydraulic line used in the fracking process broke and sprayed fluid onto hot equipment. The chemicals ignited and the fire spread to 20 trucks. It would go on to smolder for six days.
Up to 25 families that lived within a mile of the site were reported to have been evacuated. No civilians or workers were killed in the incident, but one firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.
As firefighters battled the fire, water and foam washed the fracking chemicals into the creek. Such chemicals include ethylene glycol (which can cause kidney damage), formaldehyde (which has been linked to cancer) and naphthalene (a possible carcinogen). The full list of Halliburton’s chemicals, however, are protected from full disclosure by Ohio’s trade-secrets law. Ohio law further states that in the case of an emergency, fracking mixes need only be disclosed to firefighters or Natural Resources.
An Ohio EPA spokesman, Chris Abbruzzese, says that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources asked Statoil and Halliburton for a list of the chemicals two days after the fire. They were given the list, but did not share the information with the state or federal EPA.
By the time the EPA obtained a complete list, any dangerous chemicals would have already been drawn into the drinking water of towns that border the Ohio River. Statoil hired an outside toxicology firm to test both Opossum Creek and the Ohio River for toxins and reported that none were found. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission also tested the water and reported no existing contaminants.
These answers, however, do not appease the Ohio Environmental Council. As Nathan Johnson, an attorney hired on the council’s behalf, put it, “We’ve got 70,000 or so fish that died. Clearly, something was wrong with the water.”
The OEC is lobbying the Ohio legislature to pass laws that would force frackers to immediately disclose their chemical mixtures in cases of emergency.