Accidents at Oceana County Fracking Well


I wanted to know about the fracking well in Oceana County. Taking an afternoon drive to Silver Lake and asking local residents about it seemed like a good idea.  If there were problems up there, that would be relevant to the planned fracking operations in Muskegon County. If there were no issues, then maybe people were overreacting here.



I spent two hours, searching online for the well’s location and any other pertinent information. I found almost nothing.


The DEQ has this map available, which shows the general location, and the number PN60575:


The legend at the bottom of the map gave coordinates: 15N 18W.


But feeding these into Google Earth gave me a location off the coast of Gambia.


I found nothing else online. No news reports about the well, no blog posts. The absence of web content led me to suppose that this well has had a boring life. I began to reconsider taking the time to drive up there.


I found the Oceana Ban Fracking Facebook page, which listed a public meeting with the DEQ for that afternoon in Shelby. I decided to go and to try to get some feedback from the residents up there, good or bad.


What I learned was very disturbing.


There have actually been three accidents at the well. And there have been two chemical releases. Not much is known, but noxious odors accompanied by headaches, body aches, and inability to sleep were reported by residents over a twelve mile radius in Benonia and Golden Townships in December and again in May


The Emergency Management Coordinator was unaware that fracking was under way. Small fire departments were dispatched five and six times a day for two week periods to respond to the complaints.


Hydrogen sulfide was noticeable among the odors. This gas is very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, explosive, and heavier than air.


There is no contact person at the Riley 1-22 well and so, they could not assess the hazard level.  


We learned that the drill bit broke off several thousand feet down in December and that one of the attempts to remove it involved forcing liquid nitrogen into the well. Among other things, this resulted in extinguishing the flare and so methane was released into the air for a two week period. Flowback also occurred at this time, with the escape of chemicals and gasses.


Mishandled flowback occurred again in May, with another release of chemicals and gasses.


Although the “Right to Know Act”, which was enacted after the Bhopal gas tragedy which killed an estimated 8,000 people in India from a Union Carbide gas leak, mandates that County Emergency Management officials have documented information about chemicals used in all industrial processes before they are brought on site, the Emergency Manger still does not know what chemicals were released to the environment.


This is because the “Halliburton Loophole” exempts the fracking industry from all environmental regulation and oversight.


The Michigan DEQ is quick to say that flowback fluids are safely contained in pools and storage containers by stringent regulations. They describe costly measures enacted by the industry to prevent chemical runoff. These include double walled liners and high walls around the drill site.


However, my visit to the Riley 1-22 well showed effectively no protection at all. (See video:


A small berm had been pushed up at three sides of the site. This berm was at most two feet high and did not exist at all in many areas. This included the wide roadway above a ditch, right next to a farmer’s field.


Not only is it disturbing that sloppy management of the Riley well led to several accidents, and that the agencies charged with protecting the public are out of the loop by design, but the fact that no news reports or web content exists to help the people who are most affected by this very serious matter prepare themselves is beyond words.


What has happened to the press? What is happening to democracy?




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Comments (7) -

6/17/2013 6:10:14 PM #

I hadn't heard about any of the news you report.  Such as: the drill bit breaking off.   Regarding that, I don't know what you mean about them putting liquid nitrogen down the well bore to help get the bit out.  That doesn't make any sense to me.  You can request a driller's log from MDEQ under the freedom of information act and it should have any corroborating documentation.

The H2S gas release is very concerning.  It is a very deadly gas.  Do you have any corroborating information about it leaking from the well?  Like what date?  Who recorded the event?

Regarding the Fire Departments, do you know which Fire Depts?  You say Fire Departments were dispatched 5 to 6 times a day for a two week period.  What time frame date-wise was that?

I'm keeping track of some of the Michigan wells here:  You can look up wells there if you want.  I have some pictures of the Riley well there.  Please let me know if you have any more information on these details.  It's very interesting to me.


6/17/2013 6:50:59 PM #

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your email. We will follow up on your leads.

My information is skechy because it all came in that one visit on Saturday.  

The video shows most of what I learned and how I learned it. Other details came from chatting with people there.

Several people were reluctant to be interviewed. Chuck Thompson (panel member seen in the video) is the one to told me about the drill bit breaking. He said that Holy H. from the DEQ told him about it in May, after the MCC public meeting. Chuck is very informative because he is very interested and because he lives up there and has friends up there.

If you haven't seen the video, please find it at

Thanks so much for all that you're doing!


6/19/2013 4:51:55 PM #

No problem Dan.  I will finish the video you referenced (eventually).  I'm about half way through.   On, I have some pictures hosted of the Riley well.  I have all the wells of major concern (to me anyway) on the main webpage.  When you click on a marker, you can visit that locations homepage and see photos and youtubes if there are any.  I haven't developed the location homepage too much yet, but I will be having a homepage for any location of interest.  The location homepage will be like a bulletin board where anyone can upload pictures, documents, or attach youtubes and website links.  It will also have other information pertinent to the well.  Right now i have 63k locations in my database (all oil & gas type wells).  I will be adding more stuff later.  I'm trying to develop the tools people need to upload and add info to the location homepages so more people can be involved than just me.   I provide the web tools and the people help provide content.   That's my goal anyway.

Anyway, you can upload pictures to the site yourself if you create a login but I'm still working out some kinks and making the site more robust.  If you have any pictures of the Riley well, please send them to me and I'll upload them for you.  You can let me know how you want me to credit the photos.

Also of interest to you might be the Swanson Trust well which is not too far from you probably.  It is the white marker over the word Muskeegon on the Google map when you first load the page.  I'm trying to get pictures of the location before, during, and after they start that well.  It was just permitted, so drilling may begin soon if it hasn't already.


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