Prove your humanity

More than a week after an explosion at a natural gas well operated by a subsidiary of ExxonMobil in eastern Ohio, gas and brine water continue to pour from the site. No one was injured in the blast at XTO Energy’s Schnegg well, but fires lasted for three days. Four families are still evacuated from their homes, down from about twenty-five homes, according to Karen Matusic, a spokesperson for XTO Energy.

LISTEN: “More Than a Week After Explosion, Gas Still Pours from Frack Well”

Sarah Long Smith and her husband returned to their home in Powhatan Point after being evacuated by Belmont County emergency officials for two nights. XTO paid for a hotel room thirty miles away.

Long Smith can still hear the leak, a constant low sound in the distance. “It’s eerie,” she said, “And so you wonder what in the world is exactly going on? You just wonder what’s happening and if it’s still escaping, then it’s in the air.”

Smoke from the fire was still visible three days after the explosion. Photo: Rich Sidwell

State and federal regulators are monitoring air quality around the site and at nearby homes, according to XTO Energy. Long Smith said she doesn’t want to panic about the ongoing leak, “…They said that the EPA was here, and they wouldn’t have us go back until it was safe. I guess you have to trust it.”

XTO spokesperson Karen Matusic said the well that exploded was one of four on the pad, and was almost in production. XTO is working with a well-control crew from Texas to plug it. “Right now we are still clearing debris,” she said. “And currently we are following a methodical process to safely address the integrity of an adjacent well on the same pad site.”

After the explosion, a construction crane ended up on top of one of the working wells, and that’s slowing down the crew’s ability to cap the leaking well.

Rain has been slowing progress. The company doesn’t know how much gas is leaking, or how much clean up will cost. In addition to monitoring the air, Matusic said regulators have also set up floating booms in nearby Captina Creek, to protect it from salty brine water that’s also pouring from the well.