Update on Louisiana cattle deaths from hydraulic fracturing: “No state agency took responsibility for testing”

From The Shreveport Times:

The ‘stuff’ killed the cows, sheriff says

• Prator questions whether drilling company has reported incident.

By Vickie Welborn • [email protected] • June 25, 2009

That’s Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator’s assessment of what contributed to the deaths of 17 cows in late April near a natural gas drilling location south of Spring Ridge.

Until now, none of the state agencies involved in the ongoing inquiry into the incident has stated what caused the cattle to drop dead in Skipper Williams Jr.’s pasture on state Highway 169.

The deaths were reported at some point after a liquid leaked from the well, which was in the completion process, and pooled into a low area accessible to the cows. The substance later was determined to contain elevated chlorides, oil, grease and some organic compounds.

But no state agency took responsibility for testing the animals. Results from a necropsy performed by Williams’ private veterinarian are unavailable.

On Wednesday, Prator gathered representatives of his and Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott’s offices, the Caddo Commission, state police and the state Environmental Quality, Natural Resources and Agriculture and Forestry departments in one room to review all the reports connected to the incident.

“We went over for an hour exactly what everybody’s response was, and everybody’s response and cooperation was really good,” the sheriff said. “We responded to the scene well. When everyone found out about it we all worked together very well.

“We have determined — although no one agency except me will say this — by piecing everything together, there was a spill from the site that ran off of the site and that was ingested by the cows and that’s what caused the cows to die.”

State veterinarian Michael Barrington confirmed the cows’ deaths were neither natural nor caused by disease, a release from Prator’s office states.
. . . . .
Still undetermined is whether the spill was reported and, if so, whether it was reported in a timely manner. “We contend it should have been reported. And the timeliness of it we’re investigating,” Prator said.
. . . . .
State police, the sheriff’s office and Environmental Quality still are looking into the timeliness of the reporting. Findings of the sheriff’s office and state police will be turned over to Scott for review. Environmental Quality will move its report through its channels.

Environmental Quality was notified via its hotline when Chesapeake Energy learned of the dead cattle. And over the next 72 hours, the company worked with Schlumberger, the sheriff’s office and other agencies involved to investigate the incident, McCotter said.
. . . . .
“While Chesapeake, Schlumberger and others have conducted water and soil analysis, Chesapeake and Schlumberger have not had access to the cattle owners’ necropsy and toxicology reports and have, therefore, been unable to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the cattle deaths,” McCotter said.
. . . . .
“If at the time it happened proper notification had been made, there are chances cows would still be alive right now,” the sheriff said. “In this case, this was cows. How unfortunate. But what if it was children?”

For complete story, see: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20090625/NEWS01/906250326/0/L/The–stuff–killed-the-cows–sheriff-says

For an important post on gas drilling’s effects on livestock and farmers, see also: