Regulators Continue Probe Into Fire and Fish Kill

Environmental regulators and Statoil officials continue evaluating the cause of the June 28 fire at a natural gas drilling site west of Hannibal, while they also work to determine how much the accident contributed to a fish kill in nearby Opossum Creek.

“Everything is contained, but we are still investigating it,” said Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “The Division of Wildlife is accounting for the dead fish. There is no final report yet.”

Statoil officials emphasized this was not a well fire, as surface equipment burned instead of the well itself. A hose malfunction in the middle of a fracking job caused a fire that spread to about 20 trucks surrounding the well.

The blaze at Statoil’s Eisenbarth well pad created plumes of thick black smoke and flames that could be seen at a distance of several miles. The accident injured no workers, but residents of about 20 homes living nearby evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Statoil Emergency Response Coordinator Nick Benson said air and water testing shows the environment around the Eisenbarth well is moving back to normal. He said the Norwegian natural gas driller will continue testing to ensure the air and water are safe, but said initial results showed water quality levels in the Ohio River are normal.

Working as part of the unified command in conjunction with ODNR, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. EPA, Benson said Statoil has stabilized the well pad. The next step is to remove debris.

“Statoil takes its environmental obligations very seriously, and we will continue to work with our partners in the unified command to ensure the environmental implications from this incident are effectively addressed,” Benson said.

Benson added that Statoil took some soil samples to test for contamination, but said the results were not yet final.

Benson said dead fish and aquatic life were removed from Opossum Creek, but did not have additional details regarding the fish kill. Bruce said he did not know what type of fish and aquatic creatures are native to the stream, adding this would be part of the report when it is finished.

However, Benson said officials saw some live fish in the creek in the days following the accident.

“We remain very grateful for the professional and thorough help provided by area first-responders, and Statoil hopes to make further progress in coming weeks to move toward normal business operations at this location later in the year,” he added.

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