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An explosion and fire at a gas well injured three workers Wednesday night, authorities said.

The blast, at the Chesapeake Appalachia LLC Powers site in Avella, PA, occurred at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Washington County emergency officials said.

Workers were transferring water used in a gas-extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and several of the natural gas liquids storage tanks caught fire, said Katy Gresh, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection’s southwest region.

During hydraulic fracturing, water mixed with sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, is forced into the wells at high pressure, shattering the underground shale and releasing trapped gas. Residents in several communities where fracking occurs have voiced concerns about possible water contamination and other safety issues, but the gas companies say the procedure has been used safely for decades.

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Two workers were flown to hospitals after Wednesday night’s explosion, and another was taken by ambulance, Gresh said. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known. The fire was reported extinguished at 9:30 p.m.
Gresh said the three wells at the western Pennsylvania site appeared to be unaffected but that will be confirmed as an investigation begins Thursday to determine the cause of the blast.

Company spokesman Stacey Brodak said emergency responders were keeping the natural gas liquids storage tanks cool. He said the wells had already been completed and there was no danger to the public or the environment.
Fire crews from the surrounding area battled the flames along with the county hazardous-materials team.

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