Thousands of gallons of contaminated water used to extract natural gas have spilled out of a well in North Central Pennsylvania. Environmental officials continue to investigate the cause of the spill which has polluted ground water in Lycoming County.
The 13,000 gallons of “frack fluid” contain high levels of salt and an unknown amount of toxic chemicals.
An inspector for the Department of Environmental Protection found the spill while making a follow-up visit to a well site where several violations had already occurred. The inspector saw frack fluid flowing out of an open valve on a storage tank.
The well is operated by XTO Energy — in a joint venture with Exxon Mobil. No workers were onsite at the time of the discovery.
Dan Spadoni of the DEP said the fluid found its way into streams.
“We did not see a visible impact to aquatic life. However, we found high levels of conductivity and salinity in the ground and surface water,” he said Monday.
Spadoni said XTO Energy has hired a contractor to clean up the spill and fence off the area to keep cows from grazing on the contaminated land.
He said the company has not yet provided an explanation for the open valve.
Opponents of drilling often point to the toxicity of “frack fluid” as a reason to impose a moratorium on the extraction of natural gas in the state.
Now XTO’s parent company, Houston-based Exxon Mobil, says only 2,400 gallons leaked and that XTO is taking steps to clean it up and avoid a repeat occurrence.
The DEP says the agency got the initial 13,000 gallon figure from XTO. A DEP spokesman says the larger number seems more accurate.