Ohio Gas Leak Forces Holiday Season Evacuation

photo by Sarah Smith

28 families in Monroe County of Southeastern Ohio were evacuated from their homes on December 13th, 2014 due to a natural gas leak at a fracking well that company work crews were unable to stop until December 23rd.


According to local TV station WTRF and newspaper The Intelligencer of Wheeling, WV and The Columbus Dispatch, there was an incident involving the failure of a well that had been temporarily plugged in 2013 while the company drilled and fracked three more wells on the same well pad.

The well pad, labeled Stalder 3UH, is operated by Triad Hunter LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Houston based Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation.

Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said, ‚ÄúTriad 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. The workers called for help and left. No one was injured, 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.”

A 1.5 mile radius evacuation zone was established, displacing 28 households in the countryside, along with a no-fly zone below an altitude of 5000ft. within a 3 mile radius of the leak.

Wild Wells Control, a Texas company specialized in emergency wellhead containment, was called to the scene and was able to restrict and finally stop the flow of gas after ten days work. The Volunteer Fire Department of Sardis was closed off to the public to serve as a meeting space between emergency personnel and natural gas company staff.

McCorkle also said Triad will not be allowed to resume drilling operations at the Stalder 3UH pad until ODNR officials grant them permission. She said her agency will keep inspectors on scene for the time being.

During the evacuation period, residents were allowed to visit their homes for up to an hour during daylight, but only after checking in with emergency management personnel. There was briefly a makeshift shelter in operation in the nearby town of Sardis, but many of the nearly 50 evacuees were forced to stay in motels up to forty minutes away through the mountainous terrain, since other nearby accommodations are already filled housing natural gas pipeline and drilling workers.

Monroe Country Emergency Management could not provide a statement regarding the amount of natural gas released during the event. Triad Hunter could not be reached for comment. There have been other explosions and fires at fracking wells and drilling sites in Ohio.

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