Groundwater contamination documented in Wyoming

The Environmental Protection Agency has documented a case of groundwater contamination directly attributable to fracking. In 2009, at the request of residents near a gas field in Pavilion, Wyoming, the EPA analyzed groundwater and found methane, ethane, diesel compounds, phenol and other chemicals, some used in fracking, and some at dangerous levels.

In 2012, the US Geological Survey tested one of two EPA monitoring wells near Pavilion and found the same chemicals. In June of this year, the EPA announced that it was closing its investigation. Further investigation will be done by the state of Wyoming, with the support of the EPA, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The state plans to conclude its investigation  and issue a final report by September, 2014.

The EPA is currently conducting a major research program on the relationship between fracking and drinking water in different areas of the country and will release a draft report in late 2014. EPA will look to the results of that national program as the basis for its scientific conclusions and recommendations on fracking.

So here we have a report that shows undrinkable water near a fracking site, with results, according to Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University, that are consistent with hydraulic fracturing:

“The stray gas concentrations are very high, not only for methane but especially for ethane and propane. That combination suggests a fossil-fuel source for the gases.”

The driller, Encana Corporation, says it’s not responsible for the pollutants in the water.

This is going to drag on for years, during the time that fracking will go into high gear on the Beartooth front. Without regulation, Red Lodge and Fishtail and surrounding wells are going to be vulnerable to the same contamination that occurred at Pavilion.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at regulation that has been adopted elsewhere and suggesting what Montana should be considering to make sure that this kind of groundwater contamination doesn’t occur.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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