Update: Headline in the Petoskey News-Review 1/6/12– Christmas Eve gas leak identified as toxic hydrogen sulfide
On Christmas eve day, 2011, a rotten-egg odor could be smelled across northern Michigan, according to news reports. Hydrogen Sulfide gas (H2S) was detected from a gas release near Grayling and in towns far north of that, as far as the Mackinac Bridge. A failed valve at a well owned by BreitBurn Energy in Beaver Creek Township, Crawford County, was cited as the cause of the leak. BrietBurn spokesman and executive vice president Greg Brown stated to the Gaylord Herald Times: “We apologize if anybody was alarmed. We don’t believe there is any danger. (It was) just a bad smell.” But in 1997, amid other H2S releases and consequent harms to people in Manistee and Mason Counties, Dr. Kaye Kilburn, Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California, told the Muskegon Chronicle: “Hydrogen sulfide poisons the brain and the damage is irreversible….H2S is dangerous any time you can smell it.” (Alexander, Jeff, “Gas exploration may affect health,” The Sunday Muskegon Chronicle, 12/7/97).
- Grayling gas leak smelled 80 miles away, Gaylord Herald Times, December 27, 2011
- Grayling gas leak smelled 80 miles away, Petoskey News-Review, December 27, 2011.
- Failed valve responsible for natural gas leak, Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2011
- Failed valve responsible for natural gas leak, Lansing State Journal, December 24, 2011
Some sources on H2S releases in Michigan:
- Michigan Land Use Institute’s coverage of the H2S releases in the 1990s in Manistee and Mason Counties.
- Schindler, Dana, “Survey of Accidental and Intentional Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Releases Causing Evacuations and/or Injury in Manistee and Mason Counties [Michigan] from 1980 to 2002.
- Hydrogen Sulfide Panel Meeting Summary, State of Michigan’s Michigan Environmental Science Board, July 9, 1998.
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Hydrogen Sulfide Q & A page
See also this 2006 study by a University of California at Berkeley researcher: Hydrogen Sulfide, Oil and Gas, and People’s Health
Several of the permits and pending applications for horizontal frack wells state that drilling is likely to yield H2S gas. See the Permits section for details.