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Threatened fish species killed by 2007 fracking fluid spill in KentuckyThreatened fish species killed by 2007 fracking fluid spill in Kentucky

Study Shows Threatened Fish Population Damaged by Fracking

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After re-investigating the Nami Resources Company fracking fluid spill of 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have concluded that the spill is largely responsible for the widespread deaths of several fish species in Kentucky.

Back in May and June of 2007, the London and Kentucky-based oil and gas exploration company spilled fracking fluid (a mixture of water, sand and chemicals that is pumped underground at high pressures to help release oil or natural gasses)  from four well sites in southeastern Kentucky. Among the chemicals spilled with the fracking fluid was hydrochloric acid.

The effects of the spill could be seen almost immediately as nearly all of the aquatic life, including at least two threatened species of fish, in the stream closest to the spill began to sicken and die.

After studying water samples and the bodies of local fish, researchers determined that the spill had acidified the stream and increased concentration of aluminum, iron and other heavy metals. The fish that were exposed to the toxic water developed gill lesions that were consistent with “toxic concentrations of heavy metals.” After gill lesions, the fish died of liver and spleen damage.

The blackside dace, a small fish which has been listed as a threatened species since 1987, was just one of the many fish populations damaged by the spill. As the fish only exist in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, the loss of even one habitat could have profound effects on their survival. “Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills,” researchers caution.

Although some states now require that the chemicals in fracking fluids be disclosed, energy companies are fighting this rule and disclosure is not required in many states. Nami Resources, although pleading guilty to the charge of breaking the Clean Water and Endangered Species Act, blamed the incident on independent contractors.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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