Fracked Gas Explosion in Louisiana Could Burn for Months More

The latest incident illustrates just how dangerous fracking is, despite claims to the contrary.

A gas well in northwestern Louisiana blew out in late August, igniting a burn at the site that has already lasted about a month and, according to experts, could last up to two more.

The fire has been suppressed at times due to the surfacing of “produced water,” a euphemism for tainted water from the well. That water can also spray over nearby towns, raining untold chemical waste on residents up to a mile away. One local resident claimed that the produced water killed trees and left a heavy fog in its wake.

Produced water can contain “oil residues, sand and mud, naturally occurring radioactive materials, chemicals from frac fluids, bacteria, and dissolved organic compounds,” according to the American Geosciences Institute. It can also contain the carcinogen radium, heavy metals, and other chemicals that fracking companies are not required to disclose. Studies show that many chemicals used by fracking companies have no previous testing.

The Louisiana Department of Energy Quality maintains that readings near the site of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, and other compounds have been at normal, acceptable levels. Residents have not been warned of potential health impacts of the produced water, angering environmental groups that cite potential negative health effects.

A screenshot from drone video of the site in Red River Parish, Louisiana. Credit to Phin Percy Jr.

Fracking companies do not have to disclose the chemicals they use, comparable to a “secret sauce” recipe. This makes blowouts especially dangerous because communities and environmental authorities don’t know what chemicals are being released.

Long-term blowouts can have severe environmental effects as well. The burning gas releases an exorbitant amount of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, causing significant greenhouse gases that weren’t factored into emissions projections.

The fire can reportedly be seen from five to ten miles away, but officials have insisted that the blaze poses no threat to air quality. Still, the death of trees near the blowout is reportedly causing some residents to consider legal action.