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Natural Gas Leak Displaces Seven Pennsylvania Families

A natural gas leak in Pennsylvania displaced seven families near Canton in Bradford County on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. The blowout occurred at 11:45 p.m. at a well site owned by Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Thousands of gallons of gas laden water poured into and contaminated a stream in Canton and forced the evacuation of seven families as workers attempted to thwart the leak. Chesapeake Energy Corp. spokesman Brian Grove offered a statement regarding the gas leak with "As a precautionary measure, seven families who live near the location have been temporarily relocated until all agencies involved are confident the situation has been contained. There have been no injuries or natural gas emissions to the atmosphere."

The natural gas company also confirmed that an equipment failure caused the leak as workers hydraulically fractured ("fracked") a well. The incident involved millions of gallons of water, chemical additives, and sand injected at high pressures, as the well was being drilled to break through underlying Marcellus Shale and release the natural gas. Eyewitnesses reported that the fracking water "gushed" from the well site, pooled in the pad, and overflowed the containment area. Nearby farmers were encouraged to prevent their livestock from drinking surface water.

On Wednesday, state environmental officials tested water samples from the stream, believed to be a tributary of Towanda Creek and have yet to report the results or address any longstanding environmental or ecological issues resulting from the leak.

As of early Thursday, the leaking well head had been stopped.

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