ODNR Investigating Fish Kill

Environmental regulators continue investigating the scene of the Saturday natural gas well site fire near Hannibal, which a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council said may have led to the death of hundreds or thousands of fish in nearby Opossum Creek.

Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the fire took place at the Statoil Eisenbarth well pad, which is west of Hannibal in Monroe County.

“It appears a surface hose malfunctioned in the middle of a fracking job. This caused a fire that spread to one truck – and then spread to a total of 20 trucks,” McCorkle said, adding the fire created thick black smoke which could be seen across the river in Wetzel County.

No workers or nearby residents reported injuries, McCorkle said, though residents of about 20 homes living near the well site were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

ODNR and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency both have personnel on the scene evaluating the situation.

Officials with Norway-based Statoil emphasized this was not a well fire, as surface equipment burned instead of the well itself. According to a statement from the company, all personnel working on the site were evacuated, and no injuries have been reported.

“Statoil remains committed to ensuring that the ongoing safety of people and the environment is the top priority,” the release states.

Statoil officials said any residents potentially impacted by the fire should call the company at 866-893-9512.

McCorkle said state regulators are also evaluating whether the well fire contributed to a fish kill in nearby Opossum Creek. Nathan Johnson, an attorney representing the Ohio Environmental Council interest group, said hundreds or thousands of dead fish have been found in the creek.

“It is a shame because this is one of the cleaner, more pristine streams in the entire state,” he said.

Johnson said Ohio law now allows oil and natural gas well pads to be located within 50 feet of a stream, which he said is too close.

“The Ohio law on this needs to be improved. Fifty feet from a stream is not far enough,” he said.