ARLINGTON — Two months ago, 100 homes in Arlington had to be evacuated as fracking fluid spilled out of a drilling site onto the city streets.
Now we know officially what happened, why it happened, and why Arlington officials are blaming the drilling company for "unacceptable behavior."
A series of video recordings obtained by News 8 shows the scene behind the walls of a fracking site 600 feet from a cluster of homes in the state's seventh largest city. In the incident, 42,800 gallons of fracking fluid — boiling up from thousands of feet underground — spewed into the streets and into Arlington storm sewers and streams.
Four attempts and 24 hours later, experts were finally able to plug the natural gas well.
Nearby residents and Arlington officials feared the worst. Now, two months later, fire officials have concluded their investigation.
"Clearly there was a release of unpermitted materials into the stormwater system," said Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson as he addressed Arlington City Council members on Tuesday.
The good news, according to Crowson: Despite numerous toxic substances being released into the environment, tests show it was not in amounts that did significant damage to the environment.
The bad news? He said the drilling company mishandled the spill.
"For my concerns, the main issue I articulated to you a few months ago was the delayed notification of 911," Crowson said. "It's not acceptable."
According to the report, Vantage Energy first contacted 911 nearly two hours after fracking water first started to spill. What's more, the call to 911 came not from the site, but from corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania.
"This is unacceptable behavior," said City Council member Robert Rivera. "The citizens of Arlington do not appreciate the lack of ability to control the site."
The official causeof the spill at a site adjacent to Lake Arlington Baptist Church is listed as equipment failure. Vantage Energy was issued a citation and has agreed to reimburse the city $84,000.
But this was not included in the city's report: Records uncovered by News 8 of another 1,500-gallon spill at the same site one month earlier.
Arlington Resident Kim Feil said the two incidents one month apart reinforce her fears that drilling so close to homes is not safe.
"I just assumed this was a residential area and it would be free from industrial hazardous operations," Feil said. "Now we see it's not."
In the meantime, drilling operations remain shut down and will not resume until the city does a final inspection and the folks across the street and those affected are given official notification.