New Orleans, La
Fire department responds to chemical spill in
By Michelle Hunter, The
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
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
"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
Blaze damages chemical plant
By R.E. Spears III (Contact) | Suffolk
Originally published 09:36
p.m., December 7, 2009
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
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
George said none of the chemicals were involved in the
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
=93The firefighters honestly did an unbelievable job
containing the fire,=94 George said. =93They did a tremendous
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.
oil-tank explosion rattles local homes
Published: Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.
=97 A set of storage tanks near a Montegut natural-gas well exploded
Sunday and burned for more than an hour.
Montegut oil-tank fire
No injuries were reported.
The cause is still under investigation.
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
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.
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
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
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.
will be closed while the cause of the fire is
=93Right now nobody has a clue,=94 Rhodes
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
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.
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,
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,
What the frack?
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
gas, the mother of
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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).
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.
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
The 2001 Energy Policy granted fracking a free pass on
=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
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
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
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
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.
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
plays key role in national debate
with cases growing nationwide, irrefutable evidence was hard to come by.
Until Wyoming rancher Louis Meeks poured himself a glass of tainted
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
=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
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
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
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.
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.