MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — State regulators say a worker was killed Friday morning in an explosion at an EQT natural gas well pad near Flemington in rural Taylor County.
Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said the unidentified victim was working alone at the time.
The man was attempting to transfer briny wastewater from a tank into a truck, she said. What sparked the explosion is unclear and will be the focus of the state's investigation, already under way.
Drillers inject massive volumes of water, sand and chemicals to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the rock in which gas deposits are trapped. The gas then flows up for collection, as does the brine. The DEP says some of the chemicals in the brine could be flammable.
Linda Robertson, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh-based EQT, said the victim was an employee of a gas company contractor, but she did not identify either that company or the worker. Robertson said those details were being withheld pending notification of his relatives.
"Details are very limited," she said in an email, "but what is known is that the incident was not related to drilling, as it occurred on a producing well site."
It appears the contractor was onsite to check fluid levels on water storage tanks, she said. The well produces dry gas and does not contain any condensate.
"The safety and security of EQT employees and contractors is a core value," Robertson said, "and it's a sad day when we lose anyone within our community."
Cosco said the DEP wasn't sure what time the blast happened because no other workers were present.
But Mary K. Singleton, who lives about a mile away, said her house shook at 6:45 a.m.
"I heard an explosion but I didn't know what it was. You never know around here," she told The Associated Press.
"I got up and made sure the house was all right, but couldn't see anything. I didn't know what's going on," she said. "I asked my husband, 'you suppose it was a meteor?'"
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