Marcellus at Your Door: When the Industry Says “It’s Proprietary”

by Duane Nichols on December 4, 2012

Marcellus Chemical Tanker Truck

Marcellus at Your Door

When the Industry Says to You “It’s Proprietary”

By Diane Pitcock, December 3, 2012

On Sunday evening, December 2nd at approximately 9:15 PM, there occurred what appears to be a major drilling “mishap.” A tanker truck owned by US Well Services ran off the road and plunged into Meathouse Fork Creek. The location was approximately 140 yards upstream (toward RT 18) from the Meathouse Fork and Brushy Fork Road intersection bridge in New Milton, WV.

Doddridge County Emergency Services was called to the scene to suction diesel fuel from Meathouse Fork Creek. State Police took an accident report and it seems that after these two local emergency responders visited the site, the contractors for Antero took over and began damage control and clean up.

The question is ….. what else went into the creek besides diesel fuel? And why is it that a private business can command such total control (the road remained closed for hours) and why was the media not allowed to come to the scene to document this chemical spill into a tributary of West Union’s drinking water supply?

Thankfully, the driver was not seriously injured. The truck belonged to a local contracting company called U.S. Well Services. District Manager, Chuck Johnson, when asked what was in the tanker truck lying in the creek, he told one area resident that it was “proprietary.”

West Union’s water treatment facility shut down the intake from Middle Island Creek temporarily and reverted to back up water storage.

While many of the workers on site told curious onlookers that the contents of the tanker could not be disclosed, one resident reported that a worker indicated to them that the tanker was hauling “Friction Reducer” fluid. Apparently, the local TV stations (who were not given access to the site) were told in a statement from an industry spokesperson that the truck was hauling Calcium Chloride. (Salt water?)  One would think that if it was something as benign as “salt water” the media would not have been turned away.  After all, no big deal, right?

However, a little research into “Friction Reducers” (and with many thanks to the ex-driller who is available for consultation in these matters) it was discovered that “Friction Reducers” are a far more serious issue than the usual “it’s just brine, salt water” explanation that is often given when these incidents are investigated.

You can go on the Halliburton or Schlumberger websites and read about some … yes only some, of the chemicals that are used to slick up those well casings. Products such as Dynadrill, CLS, and caustic soda additives, DESCO, and plastic drill beads are just a few of the toxic contaminants that the industry admits to on their website. The rest are “proprietary” as was told to residents who posed the questions while gazing at the tanker lying on its side in our Meathouse Fork tributary.

Don’t we have a right to know the FULL story? And by the way, if the spinmeisters report that the tanker lying on its side in the creek did not leak out its contents into our county stream, consider this:

A tanker truck hauling “friction reducers” has to have vents on top of it. This is necessary because the highly volatile toxic contents are swishing around inside while being hauled to the frack site. And that swishing builds up pressure so vents are necessary to relieve the pressure inside that builds up. When a truck plunges into a creek, such as this one did, does creek water swish in and out of those vents taking the contents inside of the tank back out into the creek with it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Let’s hope that when all the FOIA’d reports come back from this investigation, that we will hopefully have something positive come out of this mishap. For one thing, hopefully a bit more oversight. And a greater understanding of some of the potential adverse environmental and health impacts that this industry is bringing to our rural communities. It is worth it? And is this merely yet another one of many more drilling mishaps to come?

Should the industry be allowed to completely “take over” control at the scene of these spills/mishaps and run their own “damage control?” Food for thought, especially when considering that this is an industry … the only industry in the nation that has been given 7 (seven) exemptions (loopholes) from key pieces of federal environmental protection laws. It enables them to haul this stuff in their tankers to the frack sites, and be able to do what they do, and not tell us what it is they use. Meditate on that a bit.

Note: Diane Pitcock created and manages the WV Host Farms Program for drilling and fracking research. See the web site:

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharron Burgess December 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Here’s my thought. These companies are of the opinion that people in rural areas are dispensable; their only purpose in life is to serve the more educated; are stupid and can be easily be replaced etc.. etc.

So just use them, then discard them especially if they start to complain. The “educated people” who interfer; who question the business’s practices are misinformed wackos; misguided non-conformists; and unpatriotic because they don’t worship at the altar of the money God.

I strongly sense a populist revolution is coming and these businesses are just now becoming aware. And they are becoming fearful of losing their God; aka money.


Mary Wildfire December 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

Wow! A tanker truck is lying on its side in your local creek, and people who ask what’s in it are told “it’s proprietary?”! I would be all over the local sheriff, demanding he inform these SOBs that we see our local creek and its waters in a proprietary way since some of us drink those waters and use them for crops, not to mention wildlife–and if they won’t cooperate with an investigation they can stay the hell out of the community.

We are tolerating WAAAAY too much these days, we pushover Americans. I think that as conventional. easy oil gives way to the more extreme and difficult sources and methods of extraction, this is likely to become a key focus of oppression, as people resist local damage and are told to shut up and get out of the way or be arrested.

There is an alternative, but since it involves loss of profits for the few and loss of the right God gave Americans to consume at obese levels for the rest of us, we are unlikely to explore it until it’s no longer possible, because the fossil fuels that could have built the infrastructure are gone, pissed away in the interstate wind at 70 MPH.


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