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Gas Well Blowout Worries Eastern Ohio Residents

The quick response of a Texas firm stopped a dangerous leak at a natural gas well in eastern Ohio Wednesday morning. Officials say some sort of mechanical failure allowed methane to rush out of a production well near Steubenville. Residents in the village of Bloomingdale in Jefferson County were startled by the sound of escaping gas Tuesday afternoon. Sam Clark manages the Mingo Sportsmen's Club nearby. “It just sounded like a jet engine; that powerful thrusting,” Clark says. Bethany McCorkle is a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the agency which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry. “There was no explosion, there was no fire, but it was a well that was out of control,” McCorkle says. McCorkle says the well was brought under control Wednesday morning by a crew from a Halliburton subsidiary. That was good news for the 400 families that had been evacuated. But the accident, one of several in recent days, has some residents worried, says Clark. “It's a little scary,” Clark says. “We've got these wells going up all around us and we're wondering, anytime we have a problem are we going to have to call Texas and wait for somebody to come? Why don't we have somebody here locally who's qualified to fix that problem?” There are 1,141 wells producing gas from Utica shale in Ohio. ODNR's McCorkle says state rules require the well's owner, American Energy Partners, to investigate the accident and determine the cause. “Will it happen again? Possibly. And what we'll do now is determine the cause so we can prevent it from happening going forward,” McCorkle says. No injuries were reported.