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Judge Blocks Chesapeake Bid

By Staff | Apr 20, 2011

A federal judge has blocked Chesapeake Energy from removing contaminated soil from a waste pit in Wetzel County.

According to published reports, U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp issued a temporary restraining order against the company this past week.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a Wetzel County couple who claim Chesapeake unlawfully disposed of drilling wastes in the pit. The pit is located on Larry and Jana Rine’s property at Silver Hill, east of New Martinsville.

They’re seeking a more comprehensive cleanup plan.

According to court records, preliminary tests found diesel fuel, benzene, and other contaminants in the soil.

Chesapeake spokeswoman Jacque Bland says the company believes its activities are within its lease and property rights.

Meanwhile, Casey Junkins, staff writer for The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register recently reported that more chemicals that may be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed are being used for fracking at natural gas drilling sites, according to Chesapeake Energy.

As Chesapeake continues drilling and fracking more wells in Ohio and Brooke counties, the driller is joining other firms to reveal more information about breaking the rock deep within the earth to release Marcellus Shale natural gas. Recently, company Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon announced Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake’s participation in www.fracfocus.org‘>www.fracfocus.org, a website providing information on fracking chemicals, solutions and procedures.

The site is maintained by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, an organization whose website notes that it “advocates for environmentally-sound ways to increase the supply of American energy,” as well as the Groundwater Protection Council, which is a “national association of state groundwater and underground injection control agencies.”

“Providing further information about our drilling, completing and producing operations in today’s environment is more critical than ever, and we believe this new public registry provides an immediate, workable and accurate way to present information about the additives of our hydraulic fracturing operations to all of our stakeholders,” McClendon said regarding the site.

If even 0.5 percent of the 5 million gallons of water, sand and chemical solution used to frack a typical

Marcellus Shale well consists of chemicals, that means 25,000 gallons of chemicals are being pumped into the ground at pressure as high as 10,000 pounds per square inch.

Not every frack job requires the same solution of chemicals, so not all substances will be used for every well.

Chesapeake officials previously acknowledged using these chemicals for frack jobs, most of which can be found in common household products such as laundry detergent, hair coloring solution and antifreeze: hydrochloric acid; ethylene glycol; isopropanol; glutaraldehyde; petroleum distillate; guar gum; ammonium persulfate; formamide; borate salts; citric acid; potassium chloride; and sodium or potassium carbonate.

Among the additional chemicals found on the website include a substance called tetramethyl ammonium chloride.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration Material Safety Data Sheets, this chemical “may be fatal is swallowed, inhaled or absorbed.”

Acetaldehyde is listed as being harmful and a possible carcinogen. Thioglycolic acid is also harmful, according to the MSDS.

Two-butoxy-ethanol is listed as a narcotic and respiratory irritant that may cause kidney or liver damage.

In addition to these materials, some of the 85 fracking chemicals listed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections are xylene, toluene and tetramethylammonium chloride – chemicals that can lead, with prolonged exposure, to liver damage in humans and can even be fatal.

Some residents remain concerned that fracking can lead to groundwater contamination, but industry leaders note there have been no confirmed cases of this.