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Frack fluid spilled in Pa. well blowout

Emma Jacobs
A drill rig in Bradford County, the area of today's leaking well.

Just south of the state line, thousands of gallons of contaminated water have spilled from a natural gas well in northern Pennsylvania.

A blowout near the surface early Wednesday caused the spill.

Skip Roupp with Bradford County's Emergency Management Agency said on-scene responders reported that the leak had been contained late Wednesday.

"They're shutting it down very carefully and slowly so as not to blow this plug out," Roupp explained.Drilling company Chesapeake Energy lost control of the well early Wednesday morning during the riskiest part of the drilling process: hydraulic fracturing. In this process, a water and chemical solution is injected into a well at high pressure to release gas stored in shale underground.

No injuries have been reported. However, the fluid released has spread and seven nearby families have been evacuated. Roupp said household wells downhill from the spill will have to be tested for possible contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking" has been a key concern in debates over the safety of natural gas drilling.

Environmental advocates have pointed out the spill comes on the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Update 4/21/11: Overnight, Chesapeake confirmed the leak had been contained. The company reported all but one of the evacuated families chose to return to their homes and that further operations would continue in daylight.

Brian Grove, Senior Director of Corporate Development for Chesapeake also said that initial testing showed "little, if any, significant effect to local waterways."

More from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection expected today.

The Associated Press reports that Chesapeake, which has one of Pennsylvania's largest drilling operations, has temporarily suspended fracking at all of its Pennsylvania well sites.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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