Quantcast

Scientists Link Fracking to Explosion That Severely Injured Texas Family

Popular

Scientists have determined that methane from a fracked well contaminated a Texas family's water supply and triggered an explosion that nearly killed four members of the family.

The family's ranch in Palo Pinto County is located only a few thousand feet away from a natural gas well.

Scientists have found that methane escaped from a poorly constructed natural gas well and leached into a Texas family's water well, causing it to explode.WFAA

In August 2014, former oil field worker Cody Murray, his father, wife and young daughter were severely burned and hospitalized from a "fireball" that erupted from the family's pump house.

A year later, the family filed a lawsuit against oil and gas operators EOG Resources and Fairway Resources, claiming the defendants' drilling and extraction activities caused the high-level methane contamination of the Murrays' water well.

"At the flip of the switch, Cody heard a 'whooshing' sound, which he instantly recognized from his work in the oil and gas industry, and instinctively picked his father up and physically threw him back and away from the entryway to the pump house," the complaint states. "In that instant, a giant fireball erupted from the pump house, burning Cody and [his father], who were at the entrance to the pump house, as well as Ashley and A.M., who were approximately twenty feet away."

While the state's oil and gas regulator—the Texas Railroad Commission—has yet to definitely prove what caused the blast, new scientific studies commissioned by the Murrays' attorneys has directly linked the explosion to fracking operations.

As the Texas Tribune detailed, the studies found that methane and drilling mud chemicals had escaped from a poorly sealed Fairway gas well and traveled through underground fractures and eventually into the Murrays' water supply.

The hired experts include Thomas Darrah, a geochemist at Ohio State University; Franklin Schwartz, an Ohio State University hydrologist; Zacariah Hildenbrand, chief scientific officer at Inform Environmental; and Anthony Ingraffea, a civil engineering professor at a Cornell University with expertise in fracking.

"The timing is undeniable, the location is undeniable, the chemistry of the gas is undeniable," Chris Hamilton, the Murray's attorney, told news station WFAA. "This is not naturally occurring gas. This is gas that came from 4 to 6-thousand feet below the ground."

Hamilton shared a video with WFAA that shows the bubbling, methane-saturated water that caused the 2014 explosion.

"What you can see in the video here is just super carbonated water that is saturated with methane gas that's bubbling out of the Murray's water," he explained.

"This is an explosive gas," Hamilton added. "Large bubbles and pockets of this methane escaping from a water well, any sort of spark will start a fire."

Groundwater contamination is one of the biggest concerns about unconventional oil and natural gas development. While the industry maintains the safety of the process, in December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its highly anticipated final report identifying cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.

Incidentally, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission—a state legislative body that reviews agencies—has been highly critical of the Texas Railroad Commission's effectiveness at regulating the oil and gas industry.

As WFAA reported:

"It's the 3rd such report since 2010, and is critical of Railroad Commission's effectiveness and operations. 'The commission's lack of a strategic approach to enforcement and inability to provide information persists.' The report cites: 'no accurate counts of major violation,' 'no accurate measure of violations referred for legal enforcement action' and '(Oil and gas) operators have a reasonable expectation they will not be penalized.'"

Fairway Resources declined to provide a comment to WFAA due to the ongoing lawsuit. The Texas Railroad Commission also declined to comment citing their ongoing investigation.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a press statement on the European Green Deal at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Dec. 11, 2019. Xinhua / Zheng Huansong via Getty Images

The European Commission introduced a plan to overhaul the bloc's economy to more sustainable, climate-conscious policies and infrastructure, with the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050, according to CNBC.

Read More Show Less
Young activists shout slogans on stage after Greta Thunberg (not in the picture) took part in the plenary session during the COP25 Climate Conference on Dec. 11 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Young activists took over and occupied the main stage at the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain Wednesday and demanded world leaders commit to far more ambitious action to address the ecological emergency.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A NASA image showing the ozone hole at its maximum extent for 2015. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international treaty prohibiting the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to save the ozone layer, was the first successful multilateral agreement to successfully slow the rate of global warming, according to new research. Now, experts argue that similar measures may lend hope to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Example of starlings murmuration pictured in Scotland. Tanya Hart / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Police in Wales are in the midst of an unusual investigation: the sudden death of more than 200 starlings.

Read More Show Less
Donald Trump Jr. killed an argali sheep like this one on a hunting trip in Mongolia. powerofforever/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

During a hunting trip in Mongolia this August, Donald Trump Jr. shot and killed an endangered argali sheep, and received a permit only after the fact.

Read More Show Less