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Pavillion, Wyoming Water Aquifer Polluted with Fracking Chemical

Nov 14, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Evidence that fracking has polluted drinking water in Pavillion, Wyoming, continues to grow.  According to a new report from ProPublica, monitoring wells dug by the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) turned up one chemical used in hydraulic fracturing, as well as other pollutants known to cause cancer.

The data released so far is only raw data, which according to ProPublica, means the EPA has not yet tried to interpret it, including  determining a source of the pollution.  But there are some intriguing clues that point to fracking.  For one thing, the EPA said it had not found contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.  Also, methane gas that saturated the water samples did match the type of gas that is found in the deep layers that are being drilled around Pavillion, not shallower methane that the gas industry says is naturally occurring in water.

The chemicals detected by the EPA monitoring included 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE), which is widely used in fracking, as well as the carcinogens benzene (at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people) and phenols.  Also detected were acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel, ProPublica said.

The EPA has been investigating water problems in Pavillion since 2008, but residents there have long complained about black water, water that smells like gasoline, and health problems that they blame on fracking.  EnCana, the company doing the drilling has insisted its operations are safe, but last year, the EPA warned Pavillion residents not to drink or cook with the water and to ventilate their homes when they showered after finding some of their wells were polluted.

The EPA says it will release a lengthy draft of the Pavillion findings, including a detailed interpretation of them, later this month, according to ProPublica.

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