Category: Explosion / Fire

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(NaturalNews) A five-year fire is burning beneath a landfill in a St. Louis suburb, and it’s rapidly approaching an old cache of nuclear waste.

At present, St. Louis County emergency officials are unsure whether or not the fire will set off a reaction that releases a radioactive plume over the city. An emergency plan was put together in October 2014 to “save lives in the event of a catastrophic event at the West Lake Landfill.”

St. Louis County officials warn, “There is a potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region.”

Many residents are taking precautions; some are buying gas masks, while others are considering moving away. Just recently, over 500 local residents discussed the precarious situation at a church meeting which usually draws in less than 50 people.

EPA not worried about the fire or the nuclear waste

Nothing stands in the way of the uncontrollable landfill fire, which is smoldering hot underneath the trash of the West Lake Landfill of Bridgeton County, St. Louis. This “smoldering event” is not uncommon. Fires ignite and smolder under landfills because the trash becomes so compact and hot. In this case, the fire is brewing less than a quarter mile from an old deposit of nuclear waste that threatens to spread cancer-causing radon gas.

Surprisingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t taking the situation very seriously.

EPA officials admit that although the waste may eventually emit radon gas, it won’t affect anything outside the landfill property. This is the same EPA that polluted the Colorado River with 3 million gallons of toxic sludge full of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. EPA contractors breached a mine, sending the sludge flowing into the Animas river, which quickly turned putrid and murky. That pollution has now spread to New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, infiltrating the countryside with toxic elements. Why should anyone in St. Louis County trust the EPA with radioactive waste?

To make matters worse, the EPA isn’t even worried about the fire reaching the nuclear waste. “We just do not agree with the finding that the subsurface smoldering event is approaching the radiologically impacted material,” said Mary Peterson, director of the Superfund division for EPA Region 7.

There have been no plans to remove the radioactive waste as of yet, leaving local residents baffled and worried. Most residents were unaware of the existence of the radioactive waste, which had been dumped there illegally four decades ago. If it weren’t for activists educating the public about the waste, no one would know.

Radioactive waste comes back to haunt St. Louis

The radioactive waste includes 8,700 tons of leached barium sulfate residue. It was illegally dumped in the West Lake Landfill by Cotter Corporation sometime after World War II and wasn’t discovered by investigators until 1973. The radioactive waste was left behind due to the mishandling of uranium by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, a company that started out working for the federal government’s Manhattan Project.

Since 1990, the West Lake Landfill has been managed by the EPA and deemed a Superfund site. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently warned all agencies not to disturb the surface of the landfill. They warned that radium-226, radon-222 and radium-228 could be released into the air, putting people near the landfill at risk.

The agency reported that radon levels in the area are often measured above regulations “by as much as 10 to 25 times at individual surface test locations.” Moreover, radium increases people’s risk of developing bone, liver and breast cancer.

The EPA is downplaying the potential for a Chernobyl or Fukushima-like disaster, but residents have every reason not to trust the agency’s guesswork, given its decades-long refusal to safely remove the radioactive material from the area.



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Residents demand answers about radioactive Bridgeton landfill

October 15, 2015 10:45 pm  • 

Tonya Mason, who works just feet away from the fence line of Republic Services’ landfill in Bridgeton, expresses anger that the air from burning underground material has never been tested for contaminants on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 at a meeting by Just Moms at John Calvin Presbyterian Church. Hundreds of people gathered to hear about the ongoing problems at the site. Photo by Christian Gooden,

More than 40 years ago, radioactive waste was dumped at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. The decades since have been filled with legal and political moves that have not gotten the site cleaned up.

Now a growing number of residents want to know how dangerous it is to live and work in the area as a fire burns underground in the adjoining Bridgeton Landfill. More than 500 people showed up at a Bridgeton church on Thursday for a meeting organized by residents. The monthly meetings held for the last two years typically attract no more than 50.

The surge in public interest comes after state reports showed the fire is moving toward the nuclear waste, and radioactive materials can be found in soil, groundwater and trees outside the perimeter of the landfill.

At least six school districts have sent letters home in the last week outlining their plans for a potential nuclear emergency. St. Louis County recently released its own emergency evacuation plan that was written last year.

Underground fires are common in landfills as buried garbage can get hot, much like the bottom of a compost pile. Typically they are monitored and allowed to burn out. But none of the fires have gotten so close to nuclear waste, which was created during the World War II era for St. Louis’ part in the production of the atomic bomb.

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201 dead in Turkey mine explosion, hundreds trapped

Published time: May 13, 2014 15:49
Edited time: May 14, 2014 02:47

People gather at a mine in the Soma district in the western Turkish province of Manisa on May 13, 2014.(AFP Photo / Ihlas News Agency)

People gather at a mine in the Soma district in the western Turkish province of Manisa on May 13, 2014.(AFP Photo / Ihlas News Agency)

A mine explosion in western Turkey has killed 201, according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, and the toll could rise with many more still trapped.

Yildiz told reporters 787 workers were in the Soma mine when the explosion hit a power unit, Reuters reported.

Most of the confirmed dead were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, Yildiz added.

An additional 80 people were injured and hospitalized, he said, four of them in critical condition.

AP reported that more than 200 miners are still trapped in the debris. More than 360 workers have been evacuated thus far.

Rescue workers pumped oxygen into the mine in an attempt to keep trapped miners alive, Reuters reported. A line of police held back thousands of family and fellow workers of the trapped miners who assembled outside of a Soma hospital.

“Fresh air, oxygen is being pumped into the mine. This is the most important thing for our workers down there,” Yildiz said.


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Austria Building Collapse


AP Photo

Firefighters are busy at a building damaged by an explosion in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, April 26, 2014. Austrian police say at least six people have been injured after the building collapsed following the reported explosion.


Explosion Austria Capital City, Vienna Damage level Details




Explosion in Austria on Saturday, 26 April, 2014 at 14:10 (02:10 PM) UTC.

Austrian police say at one people dead and least thirteen people have been injured after a building in Vienna partially collapsed following a reported explosion. Police spokeswoman Adina Mircioane says rescuers are trying to reach one injured person inside the residential building in Vienna’s 15th district. Five other people are being treated for minor injuries. Mircioane says other people may still be trapped inside the building, whose top two floors collapsed shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday (0800 GMT). Austrian public broadcaster ORF a photo on its website showing a cloud of dust enveloping a street.



1 killed, 1 missing in Vienna building collapse


Austria Building Collapse
AP Photo

Firefighters and police are busy at a building damaged by an explosion in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, April 26, 2014. Austrian police say at least six people have been injured after the building collapsed following the reported explosion

Posted Saturday, Apr. 26, 2014

A residential building in Austria’s capital partially collapsed after an apparent explosion Saturday, killing one person and leaving another missing, officials said. Five others were injured.

Witnesses heard a dull thud before the top two floors of the building collapsed, raining debris onto the street in Vienna’s 15th district shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday (0800 GMT; 4 a.m. EDT).

“There was a cloud of dust, and lots of people screaming and running,” Ted Knops, a 32-year-old resident, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “It was like a science-fiction movie when something comes bursting through the wall.”


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  • About 200 people evacuated from nearby homes after blast
  •, Monday 31 March 2014 16.18 EDT
washington gas plant
Williams Northwest Pipeline plant is seen after a natural gas pipeline ruptured at the plant in Plymouth, Washington. Photograph: Sarah Gordon/AP

A large explosion and fire Monday at natural gas processing plant near the Washington-Oregon border injured four workers and led to the evacuation of about 200 people from nearby homes as flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud of black smoke reached high into the air.

The 8:20am blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant in the town of Plymouth, along the Columbia River, also punctured a liquefied natural gas storage tank.

Benton County sheriff Steven Keane said some gas leaked from the tank to the ground in a containment area and evaporated into the air, but it was only a small amount. “I think if one of those huge tanks has exploded, it might have been a different story,” he said.

Of the four workers injured, one was treated at the scene and three with burns were taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, Oregon. The three were treated in the emergency room for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, hospital spokesman Mark Ettesvold said.

Across the Columbia River, the blast shook the home of Cindi Stefani.

“It was just a very loud boom,” she said. “I looked across the river and saw a giant mushroom cloud and flames at least a couple hundred feet high.”

Animals on neighboring farms were running around, she added.

“At that point we were pretty scared. I was thinking, ‘We need to get out of here.'”


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Sheriff’s update on natural gas fire



Published on Mar 31, 2014

Joe Lusignan of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office briefs the media on the evacuation. (Video by Bob Brawdy)



Oregon Public Broadcasting

At Least 4 Injured, 400 Evacuated After Explosion At LNG Plant

AP | March 31, 2014 9:14 a.m. | Updated: March 31, 2014 4:23 p.m.

A large explosion and fire Monday at a natural gas processing plant on the Washington-Oregon border injured four workers, led to the evacuation of about 400 people from nearby farms and homes, and sent a mushroom cloud of black smoke high into the air

Witnesses reported hearing a large boom and giant mushroom cloud from the explosion Monday morning.

Witnesses reported hearing a large boom and giant mushroom cloud from the explosion Monday morning.

Courtesy Scott Lucas / Via East Oregonian

The 8:20 a.m. blast at the Williams Northwest Pipeline plant in the Washington town of Plymouth, along the Columbia River, also punctured one of the facility’s two giant storage tanks for liquefied natural gas.

Benton County Sheriff Steven Keane said some gas leaked from the tank to the ground in a moat-like containment area and evaporated into the air, blowing away to the northeast. But it was a relatively small amount, he said.

“I think if one of those huge tanks had exploded, it might have been a different story,” Keane said.

One of the four injured workers was transported to a Portland, Ore., hospital specializing in burns, he said. The other three were taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, Ore., where spokesman Mark Ettesvold said they were treated in the emergency room for injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.



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Published time: February 19, 2014 00:53
Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP

With one person missing and presumed dead in an explosion at a natural gas well in a small Pennsylvania town, the company responsible is now under fire after apparently apologizing to the local community by handing out vouchers for free pizza.

It took five days for emergency crews to safely extinguish a fire that was set by an explosion that shook the small town of Bobtown, located in the far southwestern corner of the state. The blast gave off a loud hissing noise that could be heard from hundreds of yards away.

One resident told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion in a shale formation where Chevron Corp. has spent time fracking “sounded like a jet engine going five feet above your house.” John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner said his dog started growling unusually at 6:45 a.m. on February 11 “then the house just sort of shock and there was a big loud bang.”

At least one employee who was working on the rig has not been found and is widely thought to have been killed – either in the initial explosion or during the five days the flames burned. Another worker was injured in the event.

Chevron has denied any knowledge of what caused the explosion. Company spokesman Ken Robertson told the local ABC affiliate that workers were preparing to run tubing, which is done when wells are being readied for production, and that “there is not enough fuel being emitted to sustain combustion, and with the cooling of the crane, the ignition source has been removed.”

The Philadelphia Daily News has since discovered that residents of Bobtown – a census-designated community of fewer than 1,000 people that revolves mostly around coal mining – have started receiving coupons for one free pizza and a two-liter of soda from the local Bobtown pizza.

Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community,” the company said on its website. “We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment.”

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  NBC News

Ryan Remiorz / Canadian Press via AP

Rescue personnel search through the icy rubble Friday of a fire that destroyed a senior residence in Quebec.

Fire crews in Quebec are using steam to melt the ice encasing the charred rubble of a seniors home Friday as they search for victims of a blaze that killed at least five people and left some 30 others missing, authorities said.

Firefighters and police officers put out the last traces of the blaze overnight at the Residence du Havre in the small village of L’Isle-Verte and brought equipment to the scene to thaw the ice, said Quebec Provincial Police Lt. Guy LaPointe.

The search is on this morning for dozens of people still unaccounted for after a deadly fire blazed through a senior center in Quebec and killed at least five people. A fire chief called it a “night from hell.” NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

Three teams, which include forensic technicians and experts from the coroner’s office, are rotating in shifts because of the “extreme cold.”

“The steam allows us to melt the ice and proceed forward,” he said. “And most importantly, preserve the integrity of individual victims.”

Authorities haven’t determined the cause of the fire, which erupted about 12:30 a.m. Thursday in the community along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Neighbors described a rapidly moving blaze, saying they saw some of the home’s residents jump from the building and one man try to save his elderly mom by climbing up a ladder.

The cold has hampered efforts since the blaze began: it froze some of the water that firefighters tried to use to extinguish the fire and left behind ice-caked wreckage, slowing efforts to determine the number of victims, said LaPointe. He said he couldn’t give a time frame for when their work would be done.

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Bitter cold hampers search after L’Isle-Verte fire

 A firefighter looks on at the seniors residence Residence du Havre after a fire in L'Isle Verte, Quebec. 23 Januayr 2013 Crews are searching the rubble in 45-minute shifts to minimise exposure to the dangerously low temperatures

The bitter cold is hindering the search for as many as 30 elderly and infirm Canadians unaccounted for after a fire destroyed a Quebec old people’s home.

Crews are struggling in temperatures of -21C (-6F) in L’Isle-Verte, a day after five people were confirmed killed in the blaze.

The ruins of Residence du Havre have collapsed and are frozen over with a thick layer of ice from the fire hoses.

Many of the missing were dependent on wheelchairs and walking frames.

The deadly fire broke out about 00:30 local time (05:30 GMT) on Thursday.

‘Preserve victims’

Several fire departments were called to the town of 1,500 – 225km (140 miles) east of Quebec City – to help extinguish the fire, which was fanned by strong winds.

Emergency crews were able to save about 20 of the home’s 52 residents, at least 13 of who were treated at hospital.

The Quebec Provincial Police told reporters on Friday that three teams of police and firefighters were searching the debris in 45-minute shifts in order to minimise their exposure to the cold, using tools that produced steam to melt the ice coating the ruins.

The BBC’s Beth McLeod: “Many are missing, feared dead”

Lt Guy Lapointe said the steam would allow the teams to “melt the ice and preserve the integrity of possible victims”.

But officials have not confirmed more than five deaths, saying they wanted to determine how many people were in the building at the time of the fire.

Investigators have begun searching for the cause of the blaze, and say they have not ruled anything out.

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Earth Watch Report  – Fire / Explosion


Explosion USA State of Nebraska, Omaha [International Nutrition] Damage level Details


Explosion in USA on Monday, 20 January, 2014 at 18:37 (06:37 PM) UTC.

As many as 15 people are thought to be injured or trapped inside an Omaha plant that produces animal supplements. Rescuers had taken five people to the hospital shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday. They notified emergency room personnel that others remained inside International Nutrition near South 76th and F Streets. Emergency dispatchers received a report of a possible industrial explosion Monday about 10 a.m. At least five rescue squads were dispatched to 7706 I Plaza, home of International Nutrition. Early reports indicated that up to 12 to 15 people were injured or trapped in the 10 a.m. blast, with at least five men taken to Creighton University Medical Center. Four were in serious condition and the fifth person was in critical condition. Among the five men who were injured were a 21-year-old, a 36-year-old, a 37-year-old and a 49-year-old. According to police radio dispatches, the 21-year-old suffered a head laceration and the 36-year-old inhaled limestone dust. Both are in serious condition. International Nutrition manufactures farm animal supplements. According to its website, “International Nutrition has serviced the U.S. feed industry for over 40 years. Combining an inventory of over 350 critical ingredients with our expertise in producing medicated, nutritional and specialty premixes, we are successfully servicing the needs of animal health distributors and feed manufacturers.”



Official: Omaha plant fire claims 2 lives, 10 others injured

By Steve Almasy and Carma Hassan, CNN
updated 8:16 PM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
Watch this video

At least 2 dead in Omaha plant explosion

  • Mayor’s office, county attorney says 2 dead, all others accounted for
  • Witnesses describe an explosion followed by chaos
  • OSHA says too early to determine cause of the incident

(CNN) — At least two people died and four were critically injured Monday in a plant accident in Omaha, Nebraska, authorities said.

The incident happened about 10 a.m. CT at International Nutrition, a company that produces feed and other products for livestock and poultry.

“I heard the explosion and stuff started falling, so I ducked for cover,” worker Nate Lewis told CNN affiliate KETV. “It was pitch black in there. All I could see was fire. I had to feel my way out of the place. I couldn’t see anything.”

There were 38 people at the plant at the time of the incident, interim Omaha fire chief Bernard Kanger said. Ten of the injured people needed a trip to the hospital, the chief said, adding that four were initially in critical condition.

Seven other people at the scene refused treatment, he said.

The mayor’s office and the county attorney’s office said two people had died. A spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Suttle said all other people at the plant were accounted for as of Monday night.

An employee told KETV that he heard noises, saw fire and sprinted for his life.

“I just heard a crack pop and big ball of fire, and I just took off running when I heard the first crack,” worker Jamar White “That’s all I could do was get out of the way and make sure I was OK.”

A spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said OSHA investigators were at the plant, where part of the building had collapsed. Scott Allen said it is too early to determine the cause of the accident.

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The New Zealand Herald

Fatal feed processing plant explosion in Omaha

The International Nutrition plant is shown with wreckage in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo / AP

The International Nutrition plant is shown with wreckage in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo / AP

Omaha officials say two people are dead and all other workers are accounted for in the animal feed plant that exploded.

The explosion Monday morning (local time) brought down part of the International Nutrition plant. Two people were killed and 10 others seriously hurt.

Omaha Police Lieutenant Darci Tierney said all of the other people who were working have been accounted for.

Authorities don’t know what caused the blast.

Interim Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger noted that there were no hazardous chemicals at the plant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will determine the cause.

The explosion knocked out the lights in the building and sent workers scrambling for safety.

Worker Jamar White said he heard a loud crack and looked up to see the back wall of the building collapsing. White said he then ran to safety.

Thirty-eight people were working at the plant when the blast happened. In addition to the two people who died and 10 who were hospitalized, seven people were hurt but refused treatment. Officials have not said how many of the 19 others escaped.

“We haven’t cleared the building yet because of the significant risk to our people,” Kanger said.

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Published time: December 24, 2013 00:01
Edited time: December 24, 2013 03:56
A damaged area is seen after an explosion at a security building in Mansoura city, the capital of Dakahlyia Governorate, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Cairo, December 24, 2013 (Reuters / Stringer)

A damaged area is seen after an explosion at a security building in Mansoura city, the capital of Dakahlyia Governorate, about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Cairo, December 24, 2013 (Reuters / Stringer)

Explosions at a police headquarters in Mansoura, Egypt, early Tuesday morning killed at least 14 people and injured 130, according to Egypt’s health ministry.

According to the state health ministry, multiple explosions at a security directorate in Mansoura, capital of the Daqahliya province in northern Egypt, occurred early Tuesday, Al-Ahram reported.

Most of the dead were among police agents inside the partially collapsed five-floor building, AP reported.

Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem Al Beblawi labeled the attack a “terrorist incident,” saying those responsible “will not escape justice,” according to AP.

The head of the security directorate was among those injured, Daqahliya governor Omar El-Shawadfy told Egypt state television.





Hisham Masoud, General Manager of Mansoura’s hospitals, told Ahram the casualty toll is expected to rise based on eyewitness reports of the condition of those in the badly-damaged Daqahliya security directorate.

Al-Ahram’s Arabic site quoted an anonymous security source who said two bombs exploded at the same time. The first, the source said, went off on a higher floor in the directorate as the second detonated in a car next to the building.

A third explosive device in another car was defused, the source said.

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Published on Dec 19, 2013

Fracking in Texas: the real cost

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In north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry, an energy company are drilling five wells behind Veronica Kronvall’s home. The closest two are within 300ft of her tiny patch of garden, and their green pipes and tanks loom over the fence. As the drilling began, Kronvall, 52, began to suffer nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Her home lost nearly a quarter of its value and some of her neighbours went into foreclosure

Christina Mills in Ponder, Texas As well as struggling with the noise and smells, Christina Mills says, there was the dust: ‘It took the paint off my car.’ Photograph: Deia Schlosberg for the Guardian

Fracking hell: what it’s really like to live next to a shale gas well

Nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, invasive chemical smells, constant drilling, slumping property prices – welcome to Ponder, Texas, where fracking has overtaken the town. With the chancellor last week announcing tax breaks for drilling companies, could the UK be facing the same fate?

Link to video: Fracking in Ponder, Texas: the real cost

Veronica Kronvall can, even now, remember how excited she felt about buying her house in 2007. It was the first home she had ever owned and, to celebrate, her aunt fitted out the kitchen in Kronvall’s favourite colour, purple: everything from microwave to mixing bowls. A cousin took pictures of her lying on the floor of the room that would become her bedroom. She planted roses and told herself she would learn how to garden.

What Kronvall did not imagine at the time – even here in north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry – was that four years later an energy company would drill five wells behind her home. The closest two are within 300ft of her tiny patch of garden, and their green pipes and tanks loom over the fence. As the drilling began, Kronvall, 52, began having nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Her home lost nearly a quarter of its value and some of her neighbours went into foreclosure. “It turned a peaceful little life into a bit of a nightmare,” she says.

Energy analysts in the US have been as surprised as Kronvall at how fast fracking has proliferated. Until five years ago, America’s oil and gas production had been in steady decline as reservoirs of conventional sources dried up. Then a Texas driller, George Mitchell, began trying out new technologies on the Barnett Shale, the geological formation that lies under the city of Fort Worth, Texas, and the smaller towns to the north, where Kronvall lives. Mitchell did not invent the technique. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was first used in the 1940s to get the gas out of conventional wells. As the well shaft descended into the layer of shale, the driller would blast 2m-4m gallons of water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals down the shaft at high pressure, creating thousands of tiny cracks in the rock to free the gas.

Mitchell’s innovation was to combine the technology with directional drilling, turning a downward drill bit at a 90-degree angle to drill parallel to the ground for thousands of feet. It took him more than 15 years of drilling holes all over the Barnett Shale to come up with the right mix of water and chemicals, but eventually he found a way to make it commercially viable to get at the methane in the tightly bound layers of shale. The new technology has turned the Barnett Shale into the largest producible reserve of onshore natural gas in the US. Other operators, borrowing from Mitchell’s work, began drilling in Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and, most recently, California. More than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of an oil or gas well, 6 million of them in Texas.

The industry has been quick to publicise fracking’s apparent benefits. Electricity and heating costs have dropped. The activity from the oil and gas sector has helped buoy up an ailing national economy and paid for new schools in country towns. Last October, the US produced more oil at home than it imported for the first time since 1995.

New evidence, however, has begun to emerge that fracking, while reducing coal consumption, is not significantly curtailing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Campaigners warn that fracking is binding the US even more tightly to a fossil-fuel future and deepening the risks of climate change. There have been stories from homeowners of fracking chemicals seeping into their drinking water, video footage of flames shooting out of kitchen taps because of methane leaks. Companies have been fined for releasing radioactive waste into rivers.

In north Texas, where Kronvall lives, the number of new oil and gas wells has gone up by nearly 800% since 2000. It’s impossible to drive for any length of time without seeing the signs, even after the rigs have moved on elsewhere: the empty squares of flattened earth, the arrays of condensate tanks, the compressor stations and pipelines, and large open pits of waste water. Virtually no site is off limits. Energy companies have fracked wells on church property, school grounds and in gated developments. Last November, an oil company put a well on the campus of the University of North Texas in nearby Denton, right next to the tennis courts and across the road from the main sports stadium and a stand of giant wind turbines. In Texas, as in much of America, property owners do not always own the “mineral rights” – the rights to underground resources – so typically have limited say over how they are developed.

Kronvall moved from the Fort Worth area to the small farming town of Ponder – population: 1,400 – for the peace and quiet, and the affordable house prices; it also meant a fairly easy commute to her job at the survey research centre at the University of North Texas. Wesley and Beth Howard moved into the Remington Park neighbourhood in the same year, two doors down, after making a similar calculation. It was close to where Beth works as a graphic designer at Texas Woman’s University. Wesley, 41, a support engineer at IBM, works from home. The neighbourhood was still only partially built, but the developers said they were planning 150 new homes, a park and walking trails on the meadow behind their house. “This was the first home we had together,” Wesley says. “We looked at being here for a good couple of decades. It was our expectation and our hope that this would grow and property values would improve and services would come up.”

In February 2011, Beth, 31, had just found out she was pregnant when the couple noticed some wooden stakes with fluttering bright plastic strips had gone up in the meadow behind their home.

Kronvall had seen them, too, and assumed workers were staking out cul-de-sacs for the next phase of homes. She was away at a work conference in May 2011 when she got a call from another neighbour: crews had arrived with heavy earth-moving equipment. The meadow was about to be drilled for a well.

None of the neighbours received any official notice, either from the energy company or the town authorities. “The law at the time didn’t require them to tell us or give any public notice or anything,” Wesley says. “They could just spring it on us as a surprise, and so they did.” At that time, Texas law did not require companies to disclose which chemicals they were using to frack the well. Residents say that, to this day, none of them has any idea, though there is now a voluntary chemical disclosure registry at

The crews proceeded to flatten the earth and install a 200ft red and white drilling tower that loomed high above their homes. Convoys of articulated lorries rumbled down the main road. “It was terrible,” Kronvall says. “There was a lot of banging and clanging. The number of trucks was just phenomenal, and the exhaust, the fumes in the air, it was 24/7.”

She says the activities on the other side of her fence deposited a layer of white powder on her counter tops. The sound of the crew shouting into megaphones invaded her bedroom. Bright lighting pierced her curtains and made it difficult to sleep. The rumble of trucks and equipment rattled the glasses in her cupboard, and the smell – an acrid blend of chemicals – was all-pervasive.

“My wife was pregnant the whole time the rig was there,” Wesley says. There was the din of diesel generators belching soot, and a nauseating mix of chemicals competing with the aroma of dinner. The noise and smells penetrated to the next street over, where Christina Mills lives. Like the Howards and Kronvall, Mills, 65, was attracted to Ponder because of its sleepiness, and bought the fourth house built in the entire development when she moved to the town in 2001. “But when that derrick was up, you would have thought you were in Las Vegas,” she says, “and I live one street over.”

Devon Energy Corporation, the firm drilling behind their homes, did install a sound curtain to try to buffer the noise. Devon – which bought out George Mitchell and has become one of the biggest operators in the extraction of shale gas – says it is committed to supporting residents. “We are always working to find new and better ways to do what we do with the smallest possible impact that we can have on our neighbours,” says Tim Hartley, a Devon spokesman. “Wherever we are, we want to have a healthy, safe, best-in-class operation, so we are committed to that and we have delivered that in the Barnett Shale area for many years.”

The curtain did little to muffle the sound or reduce the other effects of fracking, say residents. The Howards’ baby, Pike, arrived several weeks early. The couple say there is no way of knowing whether that was connected to the fracking, but they were very nervous about exposing him to possible chemicals from the process. “He was in really good health, but he was still a newborn,” Wesley says. “When you can smell diesel exhaust and you have got other unusual odours, and all the things you don’t know about what is going on with industrial stuff, it can be stressful. We didn’t know what we were breathing in at any given time, and he was breathing it, too. It was what made his homecoming so stressful.”

Two doors down, Kronvall says, her eyes watered constantly when she was at home, stopping only after she had been at work for an hour or two. As well as bouts of nausea and low, throbbing headaches, there was blood when she blew her nose. “I had nosebleeds pretty much throughout the entire process,” she says.

Devon says it is not aware of any complaints about health problems suffered after it began its activities at Remington Park, though company representatives attended public meetings from 2011, and were accused by residents of being dismissive of health concerns. In response, Hartley has said, “It would be inappropriate for us to publicly discuss asserted claims.”

As well as struggling with the noise and smells, Christina Mills says, there was the dust. One morning she found a gritty white powder all over her car, so she stopped at a car wash on the drive to work. “I went there to wash the stuff off, and the black paint came off with it,” she says, still shocked at the memory. “It took the paint off my car.”

The three neighbours all tried to stop the fracking, or at least get compensation. They sought legal advice and appealed to the town authorities and state environmental regulators. Inspectors for the Texas environmental regulator came out to Kronvall’s home, commiserated about the smell and collected air samples, only to report back weeks later that they were unable to detect dangerous emissions.


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Published on Oct 23, 2013………


Deadly car bomb hits Damascus checkpoint after widespread blackout in Syria

Deadly car bomb hits Damascus checkpoint after widespread blackout in Syria

A car bomb hit a checkpoint in a western suburb of Damascus on Wednesday, causing multiple casualties among the troops manning it, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bombing in the Dumar suburb came as much of Syria was plunged into darkness after a rebel attack on a gas pipeline near the capital knocked out power.

“Our activist in the area saw bodies on the ground,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Explosion near airport in Damascus is followed by southern Syria blackout

An attack by rebels near Damascus has caused a power outage across Syria, state news agency SANA quoted the electricity minister as saying.

“A terrorist attack on a gas pipeline that feeds a power station in the south has led to a power outage in the provinces, and work to repair it is in progress,” Emad Khamis said.

“The whole city just went dark,” said a resident who lives in the centre of the city and asked to remain anonymous. She said that she could see the “major glow of a fire” near the airport and the sound of heavy machinegun fire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on abuses and battlefield developments using sources from both sides of Syria’s civil war, said the explosion was caused by rebel artillery that hit a gas pipeline near the airport. It was not immediately clear why power was cut to the city.

The Observatory said the rebel shelling was aimed at the town of Ghasula, a few miles (km) from the airport.

Rebels have been trying to push into the capital, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

More than 100,000 people have been killed during a pro-democracy uprising which started in March 2011.

Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters



Rebels blast gas pipeline near Damascus causing southern Syria blackout


Published time: October 23, 2013 19:24
Edited time: October 23, 2013 22:37

A gas pipeline was attacked near Damascus causing the capital and the southern part of Syria to suffer a blackout. The electricity minister blamed the blast on rebels.

“A terrorist attack on a gas pipeline that feeds a power station in the south has led to a power outage in the provinces, and work to repair it is in progress,” electricity minister Emad Khamis told SANA news agency.

As the pipeline is located near Damascus International Airport, which is some 20 km away from the capital, a power outage also hit Damascus.

RT’s Arabic correspondent in Syria Abutalib Albouhaya has confirmed the power was out in the capital after the gas supply to Tashrin power plant was cut. Albouhaya also said there were several victims near a church in Dummar suburb of Damascus with gunfights going on in Qaboun and Mleha suburbs as well.


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