EPA Report on Eisenbarth Well Pad Fire Released

Released last week was the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) report on the results of the accidental Eisenbarth well pad fire. The report reveals that several chemicals leaked into local streams during the fire and that a total of at least 14,500 aquatic animals were killed as a result.

At the time of the fire, over 16 different chemicals were staged on the well pad. Those materials listed in the report were: diesel fuel, hydraulic oil, motor oil, hydorcholoric acid, cesium-137 sources, hydrotreated light petroleum distillates, terpenes, terpenoids, isoproponal, ethylene glycol, paraffinic solvents, sodium persulfate, tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride and “proprietary components.” Also stated in the report was, “As a result of fire-fighting efforts and flow back from the well head, significant quantities of water and unknown quantities of products on the well pad left the site and entered an unnamed tributary of Opossum Creek that ultimately discharges to the Ohio River.”

Water samples of the runoff found TPH, 2-butanone, acetone, benzene, tehylbenzene, xylenes, toluene, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, phenanthrene, pyrene, phenol and clorides in the water.

On June 29, the day after the fire,  a fish kill was discovered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife in Opossum Creek and its unnamed tributary. Initial estimates from ODNR had the fish kill at around 70,000, a number that was frequently reported through various local media outlets.

In the days following June 30, a collection was made of the aquatic life that had been found dead in the creeks. By the end of the collection, 11,116 dead fish of 20 different species were found as well as 3,519 crustaceans, seven frogs and 20 salamanders. The collection of the dead wildlife ended on July 5. 

The EPA report also lists the efforts made by well pad operator Statoil to prevent runoff and mitigate the environmental impact. Efforts began on June 28, the day of the fire, to contain and recover spilled materials.

Statoil began the construction of a containment berm, which was 80% complete by June 30. The berm was completed by July 2, but the report stated “it could not be keyed into native soils and could allow migration beneath.”

It was also stated in the report that plans are being developed to assess the drinking water wells near the well pad. Statoil was reported to have sampled wells within 5,000 feet of the well head prior to commencing operations, therefore a baseline will be available for testing.

The totality of results of the accidental fire are yet to be seen. A promising sign is that air and water samples went back to normal quickly after the fire. Air samples were clear by the end of the day on June 29, and  water samples from Opossum Creek were normal by July 5 with the observation of minnows, small mouth bass, mayflies, algae and snails returning to the creek.