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StatOil fined $223,000 over Ohio fracking-well fire

StatOil fined $223,000 over Ohio fracking-well fire

Ohio environmental regulators will fine an international oil and gas company about $223,000 for a blowout and fire last summer at a Monroe County fracking well that contaminated a nearby stream, killed fish for miles and forced about 25 people from their houses.

StatOil North America, the company that operated the well, can resume fracking there after it pays the fines, which were announced on Tuesday.

As much as $75,000 could go to first responders in eastern Ohio to help them deal with future oil and gas emergencies.

The fines include about $41,000 for the roughly 70,000 fish that died after chemicals ran off the well pad and into a nearby creek, and about $132,000 for contaminating the water. The fire broke out on June 28, 2014. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources assessed the fines.

StatOil officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Teresa Mills, Ohio organizer with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, called the fines “a slap on the wrist.”

“Not even a dollar per fish,” she said. “So much for protecting wildlife.”

Investigators from both Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA have been monitoring the site of the fire and testing groundwater, nearby streams and soil. Natural Resources spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said those tests found no contamination, leading officials to believe it was safe for StatOil to resume operations at the well.

Heidi Griesmer, an EPA spokeswoman, said crews also sampled water from the Ohio River, a few miles downstream of the blowout, and tested fish and other aquatic life for contamination. Those tests found that the water quality at nearby Opossum Creek had declined because of the blowout, but the stream still contains a diversity of wildlife, Griesmer said.

The blowout was one of the biggest fracking-related disasters in Ohio. The well was being fracked for gas when a tube broke, spraying fluid onto hot equipment. The well pad went up in flames, which spread to nearby chemical trucks and tanks. No one was injured, but a firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.

Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch
Published on:
September 16, 2015
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