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Well Blowout, Toxic Water: Fracking Disasters on the Rise

Oil well blowout in Alberta, explosive water in Ohio put drilling technique under scrutiny

Common Dreams staff

photo: Alberta Surface Rights Group

The process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, has recently been linked to earthquakes in Ohio, and fracking chemicals were confirmed in Wyoming groundwater just a month ago.

With news today out of Alberta and Ohio, the controversial project may be under even further scrutiny.

On Friday afternoon, The Calgary Herald reports, fracking at one oil well in Alberta caused a blowout at another oil well a kilometer away.

Fluids blasted deep into the earth under high pressure appear to have intersected underground with the second well, forcing oil up through the well bore at explosive rates.

A witness saw what appeared to be oil and chemicals spewing into the air.

"We're still not quite sure what happened," said Scott Ratushny, Midway Energy's chief executive. "We're still investigating it, but something allowed the frack to carry into the same zone, 130 to 140 metres away (underground),"

The company, through Canyon Technical Services, was finishing a 16-stage hydraulic fracture at about 1,400 metres when the rupture occurred. Approximately 50 cubic metres of oil, fracturing fluid, nitrogen and sand were spilled on the surface and have been recovered from the site, Ratushny said.

Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, sounded the alarm on the potential of fracking to ruin water supplies:

"We're concerned that these things are going to start damaging aquifers," said Bester, a retired petroleum engineer. "If they can hit another well, like this one here, what if they communicate and put all that frac fluid into an aquifer and destroy it."

Contaminated, explosive water is what fracking brought to two families in Ohio.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports today that gas drilling has left two homes a public health threat due to potentially explosive levels of natural gas.

From the Beacon Journal:

On Sept. 29, 2008, Mangan and wife, Sandy, found that their drinking water well had gone dry at the same time that a company was drilling for natural gas at Allardale Park about a half mile away.

When the water returned to the Mangans’ well in five days, it had an unpleasant taste and a rotten-egg scent. It was salty. It bubbled. It contained methane gas and a gray slurry of cement.

The Mangans could ignite the gas bubbles in the water from their kitchen sink, similar to what happened in the anti-fracking documentary Gasland.

The Mangans' neighbors reported similar problems, according to the Beacon Journal.

The Beacon Journal reports that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “the current conditions are likely to pose a public health threat” and are connected to nearby drilling in 2008, contradicting repeated statements from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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