A natural-gas leak at a fracking well that crews could not stop resulted in 25 families forced to evacuate their homes in eastern Ohio for three days.
Crews lost control of the Monroe County well on Saturday, said Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the state agency that regulates oil and gas.
Families evacuated from about 25 houses within a 1.5-mile radius of the well, located near the Ohio River about 160 miles east of Columbus.
The well was not on fire, but the gas could be explosive. “There’s still a steady stream of natural gas coming from the wellhead,” McCorkle said Wednesday.
Triad Hunter, a Texas company that also has offices in Marietta in southeastern Ohio, operates the well.
The company said in a statement the well had been temporarily plugged about a year ago while the company drilled and fracked three more wells on that site.
“Despite numerous precautionary measures taken in connection with the temporary plugging and abandonment operation, the well began to flow uncontrollably while recommencing production operations,” the company said.
Triad Hunter workers tried to bolt the cap back into place but couldn’t, the statement said.
Fracking involves drilling deep underground into shale formations; turning the drill horizontally; and blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture the shale and free trapped oil and gas.
Triad Hunter crews were trying to unplug the well this past weekend when there was “an uncontrollable amount of pressure” that sent a stream of gas into the air, she said. The workers called for help and left. No one suffered an injury, McCorkle said.
She said families were able to go back into their houses during the day only. Emergency responders asked that they stay away at night.
McCorkle said ODNR is investigating. “This whole situation is uncommon in general,” she said. “A full investigation will give us more information as to what happened, what led up to the incident and why there was so much pressure.”