Official reports indicate that no one was hurt or killed in the accident.
But in the nearby creek, 70,000 fish died.
The creek feeds directly into the Ohio River.
The Ohio River provides a lot of people with drinking water.
What chemicals?The key question: what chemicals were dumped into the river, what chemicals killed all the fish almost instantly and were those chemicals safe for human drinking water just a short way downstream? No one knew. For almost a week, the EPA could not tell the public to not drink the water because it was unknown what chemicals had been dumped.
The risk to humans in the hours and days following the spill is unknown. Some say the risk will never be known, because too much time passed between event and knowing what to test for.
All because there is no law or protocol for disclosing such information to EPA. Not just in Ohio. This same thing could happen in most states.
Local water authorities, the private company hired to monitor water contamination, and area residents did not get a full rundown of chemicals, even after the EPA and the Ohio EPA finally received the information, a full five days after the explosions occurred, reports the Columbus Dispatch.
Here's where we get into tricky areas of disclosure.
State laws explodeState laws govern whether and to whom a company like Halliburton has to disclose its onsite chemicals in the event of an emergency. Many states, like Ohio, want to make drilling for oil and gas more attractive to industry, to bring money and jobs into the area.
So Ohio state laws, for example, don't require Halliburton to disclose to the Environmental Protection Agency anything about "proprietary ingredients" in a fracking fluid — even in the event of an emergency, even if those ingredients are chemicals which can kill fish or harm humans.
What chemicals are in fracking fluid?Fracking fluid is used by drilling companies to fracture bedrock in order access underground honey-combed gas repositories. Fracking fluid is a water-based fluid that expands when injected into rock, thus causing a fissure where gas can be accessed with drilling and storage gear.
Fracking fluid is water-based, but considering its function it will be no surprise that the fluid quite necessarily contains notable amounts of hazardous substances such as:
- ethylene glycol (human kidney risk)
- formaldehyde (known carcinogen)
- naphthalene (possible carcinogen)
Why not disclose?Companies have no desire to share information with EPA in the event of an emergency. For many reasons:
- On principle
- An aversion to setting a precedent of disclosure
- To protect information from prying (competitive and the uninformed public's) eyes
- Concern that admitting to vats of, say, formaldehyde on site would incite audits and undesirable disclosure inquiries
- And let's face it, companies often don't know exactly what chemical inventory they've got and where the inventory is located — especially once a chunk of inventory has exploded — you can't tell what was there by going over and reading at the label when it's not there anymore; this is a chemical inventory fail, all too common
Here is Halliburton's side:
"We don't know why U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA didn’t have the information prior to July 3," Halliburton spokeswoman Susie McMichael told Mother Jones magazine. "If they had asked us earlier, we would have provided the information, consistent with our standard practice."What really happened there in terms of disclosure? Who knows. She said / he said. A full investigation will take some time.
The Ohio EPA, on the other hand, maintains that ODNR, emergency workers, and federal and state EPA officials had a representative ask Statoil [the site's owner] and Halliburton [the contractor] for a complete list of chemicals just after the spill. Several days later, environmental regulators pressed for the information again and learned that it had already been shared with only ODNR, which according to the EPA report was not deeply involved in the emergency response. - MJ
What we do know is that a major explosion occured on a drilling site, and the public and environment probably were not well informed or protected in its aftermath. 70,000 dead fish would agree.