Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UPDATE: Cause of cow deaths in Caddo Parish remains a mystery

By Alisa Stingley •
Shreveport Times • August 7, 2009

Just what killed those cows?

No final toxicology report has been made public about what killed 17 cows in south Caddo after they ingested liquid spilled from a nearby Chesapeake Energy Corp. drilling site April 28.

But information in available reports indicates the cows died painful deaths.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality's enforcement division continues to review the case. If the cause of death is in those files, it isn't being released until the division completes its investigation.

However, DEQ has said it is not responsible for getting veterinary lab tests done on cattle that died from some kind of contamination. And the state Natural Resources Department has said it doesn't order such tests either — only if the cattle had died of disease.

Chesapeake Energy and its contractor Schlumberger Technology sent a statement by e-mail to The Times saying they have no access to lab results and do not know the cause of death.

Perhaps the only ones who do know what killed the cattle are the cows' owners, Cecil and Tyler Williams, and their private veterinarian, Dr. R.L. Powers, who sent specimens to LSU and Texas A&M labs for testing. But none of them is talking, and the schools won't release information due to client confidentiality.

Here's what is known:

During a routine fracturing operation by Schlumberger, some fluids composed of 99 percent freshwater leaked onto the well pad then onto the pasture after a rain, Chesapeake Energy, which owns the well site, says in a letter sent in June to DEQ. About 4 p.m. April 28, site workers noticed the dead cattle.

Subsequent soil and water samples taken by the regional DEQ office found elevated chlorides — a salt, as well as oil and grease and some organic compounds. Potassium chloride can be added to the fluids used during stages of the hydraulic fracturing process used to reach natural gas trapped in underground shale.

A preliminary necropsy report by the Louisiana Animal Disease Medical Laboratory at LSU in Baton Rouge is among documents in the DEQ public records database. The report does not determine the cause of death and notes that a toxicology report was pending.


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