Fracking storage pits may have been upset during Sandy’s worst

Pits and other storage areas used to contain the chemicals and waste water used or created by the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process may have been compromised during the height of the recent “superstorm” that was once Hurricane Sandy.

According to a report at, environmental advocates warned prior to the storm making landfall in New Jersey that storage areas used to hold the chemicals used in the fracking process, as well as the pits built to hold fracking waste water were at risk of failing during the violent storm. This could have spread toxic chemicals and waste water over a widespread area and in the days following the storm, during clean-up efforts, it will have to be determined if any of these storage areas failed throughout the storm.

Hurricane Sandy pounded the Mid Atlantic region with flooding rains, damaging winds, and even several feet of snow over West Virginia. The storm tore a path directly through areas rich in fracking activity, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Millions were left without electricity and the storm caused billions of dollars in damage across several states. So far, no reports have surfaced which indicate that fracking sites were impacted by the effects of the storm but getting information in a timely manner from operators of fracking wells has not always been a transparent process.

Fracking employs the use of hundreds of different chemicals which are all stored on site at a well pad. Typically, according to information from the Natural Resources Defense Council, these chemicals are stored in open-air containers at each drilling site, not in capped containers. This leaves them open to the effects of Mother Nature, but the source cites a statement from the Marcellus Shale Commission, a lobbying group, that maintains drillers were prepared for the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Still, if a well blowout – one of many dangerous risks to conducting fracking drilling – occurs and the public does not notice immediately, it may be days before it is reported to anyone, namely state or local regulators. During a well blowout, operator errors or well construction deficiencies can cause the contents of fracking drilling fluid to escape efforts to contain and collect them. This spreads the toxic chemicals over a widespread area but many times, the drilling company responsible for the well will not report these incidents immediately.

Further suggesting that the fracking industry does not have the most trustworthy reputation, especially regarding well site safety and reporting problems to the public, a Government Accountability Office study found that many of the well site retention areas used to store fracking chemicals and fracking waste water were deficient and lacking proper safety standards, already at serious risk of failing under normal circumstances.

It may be days before the public is made aware of any spills at fracking sites that were caused by Hurricane Sandy. Electricity has not been restored to many people who lived in the storm’s path.


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