Date: Wed, 9 Dec 2009 09:30:13 -0500
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Subject: 4 Chemical Safety news stories from google

New Orleans, La probing_possibl.html

Fire department responds to chemical spill in Elmwood

By Michelle Hunter, The Times-Picayune

December 08, 2009, 3:56PM

Authorities say two people fell ill after a 300-gallon tank of hydrochloric acid spilled at an Elmwood chemical company Tuesday afternoon.

The incident occurred just before 4 p.m. at Industrial Chemicals Inc., 1020 Sams Ave., according to George Rigamer, spokesman for the East Bank Consolidate Fire Department. The victims, women from a neighboring office building, sufferd sore throats and nausea. But they declined treatment by paramedics, he said.

Industrial Chemicals almost immediately contained the spill.

"The company is handling the clean-up procedure. The fire department is satisfied by the steps that were taken and we turned (the scene) back over to the company," Rigamer said

Suffolk, Va

Blaze damages chemical plant
By R.E. Spears III (Contact) | Suffolk News-Herald
Originally published 09:36 p.m., December 7, 2009
Updated 09:36 p.m., December 7, 2009

Suffolk=92s fire marshal continues to investigate the cause of a blaze that destroyed a large portion of a chemical plant building on Sunday.

The fire marshal was back on the scene Monday morning investigating Sunday=92s fire, according to Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George.

Suffolk fire and rescue units were called to the scene of the two-alarm fire at Cameron Chemicals, located in the 800 block of Old Dill Road, at about 2 p.m. Sunday. When they arrived, the building was fully involved.

Because of the presence of chemicals in the building, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management was notified. Officials at VDEM then dispatched a regional hazardous materials team from Portsmouth to the scene.

George said Monday that she had not been notified what chemicals were present in the building. Norfolk television station WTKR was reporting Monday evening, however, that the chemicals included copper, zinc, phosphate, and magnesium, all used to make fertilizer.

George said none of the chemicals were involved in the fire.

Nonetheless, as a safety precaution, two houses adjacent to the property were evacuated for the duration of the firefighters=92 battle with the flames. Residents were allowed back into their homes later, after firefighters had brought the situation under control.

=93The firefighters honestly did an unbelievable job containing the fire,=94 George said. =93They did a tremendous job.=94

A total of 39 fire and rescue workers were called to the scene of the fire, in addition to the hazardous materials team, George said. Suffolk, she added, does not have its own hazmat team, relying instead on regional responses when necessary.


Montegut oil-tank explosion rattles local homes


By Matthew Pleasant
Staff Writer

Published: Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:57 a.m. 

MONTEGUT =97 A set of storage tanks near a Montegut natural-gas well exploded Sunday and burned for more than an hour.

Related Links:
Montegut oil-tank fire extinguished
No injuries were reported. The cause is still under investigation.

Fire crews from departments throughout Terrebonne Parish responded to the fire about 5 p.m., authorities said. They doused the three tanks with water and foam for an hour and a half before the flames died.

The tanks at 2105 La. 55 are owned by Castex Energy and held condensate, a flammable natural-gas byproduct, drawn from a well a half-mile from the property, authorities said.

No workers are stationed on the property, said Darren Small, a production superintendent with the company.

Fire crews used water to cool the tanks and foam to blanket and snuff flames, Montegut Fire Chief Spencer Rhodes said. He expected the tanks to burn much longer because of the flammable chemical it held.

Firefighters put one tank out at a time.

=93I didn't think we'd be home this early,=94 he said afterward. =93I thought it was going to be a long night.=94

Rhodes was responding to an unrelated medical call 5 miles away when he heard two explosions, likely the tanks, he said. Chauvin residents reported feeling their homes rumble and seeing black smoke.

The cylindrical structures were part of a set of six measuring 20-feet tall and 12-feet wide, Small said. The set held about 600 barrels of condensate.

Rhodes and Small said the liquid created no noxious fumes or other threat to residents.

The tanks jut into Bayou Terrebonne near the Montegut Marina at Madison Canal Road. Rhodes said there is no evidence a spill occurred.

The well will be closed while the cause of the fire is investigated.

=93Right now nobody has a clue,=94 Rhodes said.

Staff Writer Matthew Pleasant can be reached at 857-2202 or matthew.pleasant**At_Symbol_Here**houmatoda

=== m/news/A_105630.aspx


Frack Attack
Wednesday, December 09, 2009

By JH Weekly Staff

Jackson Hole, Wyo.-Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. Used primarily to heat homes and make electricity, it emits 23-percent less carbon dioxide than oil. Gas is the country=92s second-largest domestic energy resource, after coal. It=92s clean, cheap and abundant - estimates are there are half a million gas wells in 32 states already tapped into enough pockets of gas to power America at its 2008 rate of consumption for some 90 years.

But there=92s a catch. You can=92t drink gas.

The techniques used by powerful oil and gas companies to extract these fossil fuels from deep underground might be responsible for contaminating groundwater in drilling regions. The elephant in the well is the undisclosed chemical fluids used in hydro-fracturing. 

The industry hides behind federal protection, granted by the George W. Bush administration energy policy, and a multi-tiered structure of independent contractors designed to deflect blame. Major oil giants like Chesapeake or Shell or Chevron rely on service companies like Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger to do the actual drilling. Those companies, in turn, hire firms such as EnCana, Questar, a

nd Devon to put the boots on the ground. By the time a roughneck pushes the wrong button and flushes gallons of benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia,  into the aquifer, the suits at the top of the ladder are well-shielded, legally.

What the frack?
Hydraulic fracturing - also known as =91fracking=92 or =91frac=92ing=92 - is a process of extracting oil or gas trapped in the tiny bubbles of tight sands commonly called =91shale,=92 by use of fluids under high pressure. The exact ingredients of the fluid are shrouded in mystery; closely protected trade secrets. 

=93Halliburton=92s proprietary fluids are the result of years of extensive research, development testing,=94 said Diana Gabriel, a company spokeswoman. =93We have gone to great lengths to ensure that we are able to protect the fruits of the company=92s research.=94

Industry reps maintain that the drilling fluids are mostly made up of water and sand, which acts as a proppant - holding a crack open long enough to extract the gas or oil. Officials insist that when chemicals are used, they are just a tiny fraction of the overall mix, and releasing specific details would only frighten and confuse the public, and would come at great expense to the industry=92s competitive business.

Chesapeake Energy, the nation=92s largest gas driller, also stated proprietary concerns when asked by New York State regulators to disclose the chemicals in its drilling brew.

When New York=92s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finally passed legislation forcing service companies to reveal the list of chemicals they use or cease drilling, they were shocked at the number: 260 chemicals. 

Of the 300 or so compounds the Bureau of Land Management suspects are being used by drillers in the Wind River Range and Pinedale Anticline, 65 are listed as hazardous by feds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Many of the rest are unstudied and unregulated.

Even more alarming, up to two-thirds of the fluids are never recovered through =91flowback=92 and remain underground =85 somewhere, according to Halliburton=92s own records.

Nestled gas, the mother of  invention
Pulling natural gas out of sandstone has been a breeze for mineral extraction companies thanks to the porosity and permeability of the loose rock. Until recently, big gas ignored finer-grained geological formations like the Marcellus Shale (New York-Pennsylvania), Barnett Shale (Texas), and other mineral plays in Wyoming including those in the Powder River Basin and Pinedale Anticline, deeming them too expensive to drill. 

How to free up this trapped gas vexed the industry=92s top geologists for years. In 1969, a 43-kiloton nuclear explosion was detonated in a well drilled into the Williams Fork Formation near Rulison, Colorado, in an attempt to rupture the rock and get at the Piceance Basin gas deep underground. The gas came out all right, but it was too radioactive to use commercially. The area is still too =91hot=92 for habitation.

By the late 1990s, when the price of natural gas skyrocketed, the impossible became possible. Building off an idea they pioneered in 1949, Halliburton hit the mother lode. The idea was simple: Pump a water-based fluid into hydrocarbon reservoirs until the pressure literally obliterated subterranean rock, creating fissures which could conduct the gas to the surface faster and freer. 

Halliburton had been fracturing rock for decades but it wasn=92t until some innovative drillers working the Bakken Shale of North Dakota decided to turn the drill bit sideways that suddenly gasmen had the ability to tap previously unreachable energy. 

Horizontal drilling allows operators to remain in the =91sweet spot=92 of a play longer, according to Dr. Marc Bustin, widely-regarded as one of the world=92s leading authorities on unconventional gas and oil. It also gave oil and gas companies the ability to reach underneath unsuspecting landowners who did not secure the mineral rights to their property.

Fracking of some kind is now used in about 90 percent of all wells drilled in the United States (more than one million). It allows oil and gas extractors to drill less wells, but recover more dinosaur juice. 

More than 150 residents at Hoback Ranches, at the northern end of the Wyoming Range called the Hoback Rim are almost uniformly against Plains Exploration=92s plans to tap into the natural resources underneath their homes. Plains Exploration had hoped to drill 136 wells on 17 well pads but stiff opposition has the development stalled for now.

Spiraling property values are one thing - oil derricks make poor next-door neighbors - but some landowners are finding themselves on the fault line of a stirring, sharp debate over fracking and its potential to contaminate water supplies. Allegations of compromised drinking water, suddenly sterile livestock, wildlife die-offs, even exploding houses, have a single common denominator: gas wells nearby.

Trouble bubbling under
On April 30, 2001 Ballard Petroleum blew out a well at their G33 pad in Dry Hollow in Western Colorado. Larry and Laura Amos could see the derrick from their kitchen window. On that day, 82,000 gallons of frack fluid were injected at 3,600 pounds of pressure. The Amoses=92 drinking water well suddenly popped its top and began belching muddy water. 

=93The fracturing created, or opened, a hydro-geological connection between our water well and the gas well, sending the cap of our water well flying and blowing our water into the air,=94 Larry Amos said. =93Immediately our water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up. Tests of our water showed 14 milligrams per liter of methane. That=92s almost as much methane that water will hold at our elevation.=94

State inspectors did not test fracking fluids because they had no idea what to test for. As for the methane, the Amos=92 were told that methane occurs naturally and is harmless. Inspectors warned them, however, to keep the windows open and vent the basement, just in case. 

Ballard denied any responsibility while their field rep provided the Amoses=92 with bottled water for a while. They said the fracking had taken place nearly a mile underground, far below the 225-foot water well, and there was no chance the fluids could have travelled that far up. 

Yet Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, who studied the incident for the County, said, =93Water wells just don=92t do that unless you apply pressure to the bottom.=94

Two years later, Larry=92s wife Laura came down with a very rare condition of a tumor in her adrenal gland. She begged EnCana, who bought out Ballard, for the ingredients of the fracking chemicals to help her in her diagnosis. For months, the company denied 2-BE, a highly toxic and common fracturing fluid, had been used. Amos=92 lawyers eventually obtained documents from EnCana showing that 2-BE had, in fact, been used in at least one adjacent well.

The couple has since clammed up after a reported multi-million settlement from EnCana in 2006.

Another Colorado family is living in fear that their house could burst into flames at any time. Aimee Ellsworth of Hudson can routinely ignite her bathroom sink water, fire leaping from the faucet, because natural gas from nearby wells has seeped into her groundwater supply.

In the past year, more and more complaints have Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspectors jumping. 
=93We=92ve kind of reached the tipping point,=94 said one Denver-based field inspector. =93The impacts are there.=94

In December 2007, a house in Bainbridge, Ohio exploded in a fiery ball. Investigators discovered that the neighborhood=92s tap water contained so much methane that the house ignited. The resulting study concluded that pressure caused by hydraulic fracturing pushed the gas, which is found naturally thousands of feet below, through a system of cracks into the groundwater aquifer.

In February a frozen 200-foot waterfall was discovered on the side of a massive cliff near Parachute, Colo. According to the State, 1.6 million gallons of fracturing fluids had leaked from a waste pit and been transported by groundwater, where it seeped out of the cliff. Nearby in Rock Springs, a rancher was hospitalized after he drank well water out of his own tap. Tests showed benzene in his water, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission cited four gas operators, not knowing which one was responsible for the spill. 

As many as 22,000 fish and mussels were found dead last September along 43 miles of Dunkard Creek, a Monongahela River tributary. West Virginia DEP said the kill was a result of =93saline conditions from natural resource extraction from nearby coalbed methane operations.=94

=93Troubling incidents have occurred around the country where people became ill after fracking operations began in their communities,=94 said U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). 

Hinchey, with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and fellow Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO), is co-sponsoring the FRAC Act - Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act - which would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974. 

=93Some chemicals that are known to have been used in fracking include diesel fuel, benzene, industrial solvents and other carcinogens and endocrine disrupters,=94 Hinchey said.

It=92s called the =91Halliburton Loophole=92 
=93The former chairman, CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney, within a few months of coming into office as Vice President, was pressuring the administrator of EPA, Christine Todd Whitman, to exempt hydraulic fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act regulation,=94 said former EPA employee Wes Wilson on a recent talk show.
Whitman confirmed this in a 2007 interview, in which she said that Cheney=92s insistence on easing pollution controls led to her resignation in 2003. But not before she caved to Cheney=92s demands.

The 2001 Energy Policy granted fracking a free pass on SDWA. 
=93That pretty much closed the door,=94 said Greg Oberley, an EPA groundwater specialist working in the western drilling states. =93So we absolutely do not look at fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It=92s not done.=94

The Democratic-controlled Congress thinks it=92s time for a reversal. Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, =93The regulatory loophole for hydraulic fracturing puts public health at risk and isn=92t justified. The current exemption for the oil and gas industry means that we can=92t even get the information necessary to evaluate the health threats from these practices.=94

Don=92t ask, don=92t tell
In August 2008, a Colorado ER nurse Cathy Behr nearly died after treating a wildcatter who had been splashed in fracking fluid at a BP natural gas rig. Behr treated the man while the hospital went into Hazmat lockdown. A few days later, Behr lay in critical condition, poisoned by chemicals and facing multiple-organ failure.

Her doctors searched for details that could save their patient. The irritant was a drill stimulation fluid called ZetaFlow, but the only information the rig workers provided was the standard issue Material Safety Data Sheet, a complex form required by OSHA. Halliburton listed the chemicals as proprietary, well within their federal rights of non-disclosure. 

When further pressed, Halliburton threatened to pick up its toys and leave the state. The company=92s attorneys warned that if they left they would take some $29 billion in future gas-related tax and royalty revenue with them over the next decade.

Behr=92s doctor eventually learned, weeks later, what ZetaFlow was made of, but was sworn to secrecy by the manufacturer and couldn=92t even share the information with his patient.

=93It is irresponsible to stand by while innocent people are getting sick because of an industry exemption that Dick Cheney snuck in to our nation=92s energy policy,=94 Rep. Polis said. =93The problem is not natural gas or even hydraulic fracturing itself. The problem is that dangerous chemicals are being injected into the earth, polluting our water sources, without any oversight whatsoever.=94  

Wyo. plays key role in national debate
Still, with cases growing nationwide, irrefutable evidence was hard to come by. Until Wyoming rancher Louis Meeks poured himself a glass of tainted water. 
As early as summer of 2007, the Pavillion rancher had been telling anyone he knew that his water tasted bad. Meeks said many of his neighbors also admitted to experiencing =93strange and random symptoms,=94 including loss of taste and smell, since EnCana started drilling in their area. Meeks turned over a 100-signature petition to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. A meeting was convened in Casper and Meeks was basically dismissed.
A year later, Meeks problems worsened.

=93My water well has been contaminated, and I believe it=92s because EnCana drilled and fracked gas wells close to my well,=94 Meeks said in a press release. 
Doug Hock, spokesman for EnCana Oil and Gas told the Casper Star-Tribune in July 2008 that his company appreciates that people around Pavillion are concerned, but the sciences doesn=92t support their claims.

=93We understand their concerns and we=92ve worked with independent laboratories to analyze this in conjunction with government agencies,=94 Hock said. =93At this point, the independent scientifically collected data shows no hydrocarbon contamination.=94
When Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was unable to pinpoint any hydrocarbon pollution, the feds stepped in. A study was ordered, which is being conducted under the EPA=92s Superfund program. It is the first time the agency has undertaken its own water analysis in response to complaints of contamination in drilling areas, and it could be pivotal in the national debate over the role of natural gas and its safe extraction in America.

=93Everybody=92s in agreement that the well is messed up. It=92s bad quality water,=94 said DEQ district supervisor Mark Thiesse. =93I=92m suspecting it=92s the oil and gas activities, but I don=92t know that yet for sure.=94

While more than 1,000 other cases of contamination have been documented by courts and state and local governments in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania, it=92s another Wyoming case that might prove groundbreaking.
Last July, a hydrologist sunk sampler pipe 300 feet down a water-well in Sublette County and pulled up a goo of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for humans.
The contamination in Sublette County is significant because it is the first to be documented by a federal agency, the BLM, who has the right to pull leases on the more than 6,000 horizontal wells in the county.

However, in September, the BLM approved plans for 4,400 new wells in Sublette County, despite the unresolved water issues. Tests showed contamination in 88 of the 220 potable water wells examined. According to industry watchdog ProPublica, when researchers returned to take more samples, they couldn=92t even open the wells; monitors showed they contained so much flammable gas that they were likely to explode.

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