By Andy Sheehan

AVELLA (KDKA) — At Vitari’s Vittles, owner Nick Vitari thinks Marcellus drilling has been a shot in the arm for sleepy Avella‘s economy, but Wednesday night’s flash fire certainly gives him pause.

“I’d really hate to see it stopped because of this, but I’d like to make sure that we’re all safe and that we don’t have problems here – people’s houses, people’s families,” he said.

Bill Fowler says he feels more like a guinea pig to this new industry in Washington County and is especially concerned about what exactly was burning the other night.

“That’s questions that we need answered. What was burning? What did they put in the air?” he said.

“There’s a lot of old people in this town with breathing problems and stuff. We have no idea what it was that they [were] putting up there.”

Chesapeake Energy says what was stored in those tanks was condensate, so-called wet gas, a byproduct of natural gas used in the production of gasoline. The company says it burns rather cleanly with minimal impact on air quality.

“Our understanding is right now there has been no off-site environmental degradation,” said Scott Rotruck of Chesapeake.

But federal investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed that they are testing and analyzing the remaining contents of those tanks to determine exactly what chemicals were present.

OSHA and the state Department of Environmental Protection continue to investigate, but thus far, Chesapeake has not been cited for any violations related to this incident.

The state has cited the company for more than a dozen violations in the past, but Chesapeake was in full compliance at the time of the accident.

Chesapeake Energy

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