skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Amy Mall’s Blog

How toxic are hydraulic fracturing fluids? Ask Louisiana.

Amy Mall

Posted August 26, 2009

, ,
Share | | |

In April of this year, 17 cows died in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, after apparently drinking fluid that had spilled from a nearby natural gas wellpad. The local sheriff's office, although the designated first responder, was not notified and found out from community residents. It was therefore several hours after the cattle deaths were found before the Caddo Parish hazmat team was dispatched.

At the time of the accident, the well in question was being hydraulically fractured. At the site were two companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing: Superior Well Services and Schlumberger. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is still investigating this case, but according to a letter from Chesapeake Energy, the natural gas operator that owns the well: "During a routine well stimulation/formation fracturing operation by Schlumberger for Chesapeake, it was observed that a portion of mixed 'frac' fluids, composed of over 99 percent freshwater, leaked from vessels and/or piping onto the well pad."

This means that less than one percent of the fluid that leaked consisted of additives to the water. Yet it appears that the fluid was toxic enough to kill cows almost immediately upon drinking. Chesapeake's letter also states that it did not report the spill because it was not a reportable quantity of fluid. Does something sound wrong about this to you? It was enough to kill 17 head of cattle, but not enough to warrant reporting to the authorities.

Industry says that: "On average, 99.5% of fracturing fluids are comprised of freshwater...." and "Other ingredients in fracturing fluid could affect your health-if you were exposed to them in high enough quantities. However, the concentration of these elements is far below the levels necessary to pose a threat."

Does that make anyone feel safe?

Share | | |


Camille DeluheryAug 27 2009 05:05 AM

I am new to this website, I googled interest in the pine trees beetle problem and found this site. I am appalled at the ingnorance of those responsible for the monitoring of clean water and the companies trying to fly under radar. No matter whether your urban or country the same kind of people either ignore or fight for a better world. It's time we pay better attention to matters regardless of where you live and what way you vote! We're not going to have much left if this continues unchecked. Thank you for your deligence!

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Amy Mall’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In