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Families Forced to Flee Their Homes From Out-of-Control Leak at Fracking Well

Fracking
Families Forced to Flee Their Homes From Out-of-Control Leak at Fracking Well

More than two dozen families have been forced to flee their homes in Monroe County in eastern Ohio as natural gas poured from a leak at an unused fracking well, the C0lumbus Dispatch revealed.

Fracking sites have become rampant in eastern Ohio, as have fracking accidents. Photo credit: Ohio Community Rights Network

According to Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle, crews lost control of the well Saturday and have not yet been able to stop the leak. Families were evacuated from homes within a 1.5-mile radius of the well near the Ohio River. “There’s still a steady stream of natural gas coming from the wellhead,” said McCorkle.

Texas-based Triad Hunter, which owns the drilling site, released a statement saying it had "experienced a loss of control of a well, the Stalder 3UH, located in Monroe County, Ohio. The previously drilled and completed Stalder 3UH well had been temporarily plugged and abandoned in preparation for the drilling of three additional Utica horizontal wells on the Stalder pad. However, despite numerous precautionary measures taken in connection with the temporary plugging and abandonment operation, the well began to flow uncontrollably while recommencing production operations. Triad Hunter personnel were removing the well's night cap flange when a pressure disruption occurred. They attempted to bolt back down this equipment but were not able to safely do so prior to natural gas flowback."

"Triad Hunter has contacted all necessary regulatory authorities and evacuated field personnel and the residents in the immediate area," it continued. "Currently, all field personnel are accounted for, and no injuries have been reported. Only critical personnel remain at a command center near the well site to mitigate the incident. Wild Well Control of Houston, Texas has been mobilized and is currently on site preparing for well control operations. Additional details will be released as they become available."

According to McCorkle, the well had been fracked and plugged a year ago.

“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."

That probably won't be much comfort to the families and others living in the area of Ohio's growing number of fracking operations.

"There have been other explosions and fires at fracking wells and drilling sites in Ohio," the Dispatch concluded blandly without providing further details.

Indeed there have—many of them reported in the Dispatch. In October, 400 homes were evacuated in Jefferson County, also on the Ohio River to the north of Monroe County, when a fracking operation there sprung a leak. McCorkle said the ODNR was investigating. In June, a fracking site in Clarington, also in Monroe County, caught fire, causing multiple explosions. That accident spilled large amounts of toxic chemicals into a nearby stream, killing fish and wildlife; the well operator company waited several days to disclose what chemicals had been released. The ODNR was investigating. That was days after another out-of-control gas leak in Bethel Township in Monroe County.

“The out of control natural gas leak at a fracking site in Monroe County demonstrates, once again, the lack of foresight on the part of Ohio Governor John Kasich, the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on the issue of fracking,” said Alison Auciello, Ohio organizer for Food & Water Watch.

“The ODNR must have a short memory because they’re saying these types of accidents are ‘uncommon in general.’ Just this past summer residents in Monroe County were evacuated while the Eisenbarth well pad exploded," said Auciello. "As the Monroe County leak continues to force evacuations, Governor Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in the state of New York today, citing health concerns from the New York Department of Health. How many accidents will it take for Governor Kasich take a nod from Governor Cuomo, pay attention to the science, listen to his constituents and realize that there is no such thing a safe fracking?"

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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