MONROE COUNTY, Ohio – For the first time, we are learning some of the chemicals used to frack an oil and natural gas well that was involved in a huge fire June 28 in Monroe County.
But we’re learning about the chemicals the hard way, after those products and trucks staged to hydraulically fracture oil and natural wells went up in a giant inferno.
An investigation in the explosion and fire is still ongoing, but NBC4’s Rick Reitzel was able to get some of those details from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pollution/Situation Report.
The fire was so large it could be seen across the Ohio River in West Virginia. The smoke from it was so thick the Monroe County EMA Director, Phil Keevert said firefighters had to be pulled back three times and it took more than 24 hours to extinguish.
First responders poured in from around Monroe and Belmont counties and from West Virginia to attack the fire. In all Keevert said 12 fire departments and other state, federal and private agency assisted. The report states more than 300,000 gallons of water were poured onto the burning well pad.
Sixteen different chemicals were staged in trucks ready to frack wells on the site, along with those chemicals we have learned were three radiological sources, called Cesium-137, shaped charges, primer cord and detonators.
NBC4: “Do you feel satisfied that you knew enough about what was going on there to keep fire fighters safe?
“There were some questionable moments not have a full list of the chemicals,” said Phil Keevert, Monroe County EMA Director.
He said a Halliburton representative told him about the chemicals at the fire scene. As to the radiological sources, “we were told about the three boxes on site,” Keevert said. But none of the 12 fire departments knew what chemicals, radiological and explosives they were encountering before they arrived at the emergency.
“Where has the state been on all of this,” said Dr. Juilie Weatherington-Rice. She is a geologist, soil scientist and Adjunct Professor at The Ohio State University.
She said fire departments should have a list of chemicals and an emergency plan for each site before an emergency.
“Why don’t people know ahead of time, because we can’t make the assumption this will never happen, because guess what it did,” she said.
Weatherington-Rice said she hopes first responders on the scene were wearing breathing masks. Because some of the chemicals consumed in the fire were toxic and could make you sick, others more hazardous could kill you. The affects she said, might not be realized immediately. The report states 70,000 fish were killed in Opossum Creek which leads into the Ohio River. There is no evidence of whether fish were killed in the river. Contrary to what the well owner StatOil said after the fire, the US EPA report shows flowback water also poured out of one of the seven well on the site, in the creek.
Weatherington-Rice said she is concerned about the state being our watchdog.
“It does not appear to be as concerned about protecting the people of ohio as it appears to be concerned about promoting oil and gas drilling,” she said.
ODNR Spokesman Mark Bruce said the investigation into the fire is still ongoing and they cannot comment about it. But said state and federal laws ensure first responders and investigators were aware of the hazards onsite.