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EPA Cites Fracking for Pavillion, Wyoming Aquifer Pollution

Dec 9, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
EPA Cites Fracking for Pavillion

Contaminated Aquifer Linked To Fracking

Chemicals in a contaminated aquifer in Pavillion, Wyoming, are "likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing,” according to a statement issued late yesterday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   Environmentalist are hailing the EPA's finding, saying the agency's draft report on the Pavillion aquifer finally provides the evidence they need to push for more regulation of fracking.

“It’s a game-changer. EPA experts and scientists have recognized that there is real contamination, that there is a real scientific basis for linking it to fracking," Amy Mall, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg News. 

The EPA has been investigating groundwater contamination since 2008, and last year dug two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer.  According to the statement released by the agency yesterday:

Recent Water Samples Consistent


"EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the Agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time."

The agency also said that chemicals detected in the most recent samples from Pavillion area water wells were consistent with those identified in earlier EPA samples and include methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds that are consistent with migration from areas of gas production. However, detections in drinking water wells are generally below established health and safety standards, according to the agency.

Calgary-based Encana Corp. (ECA), Canada’s largest natural- gas producer, owns about 150 wells in Pavillion.  A spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg he wasn't sure if Encana used any of the chemicals detected in the aquifer in its wells.

According to Bloomberg, Encana has been providing drinking water to about 21 families in Pavillion since August, 2010.  Last year, the EPA warned residents not to cook with or drink their well water, and to ventilate homes when they showered.


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