Dec 12, 2011

Draft Findings of Pavillion, Wyo., Groundwater Investigation Released

U.S. EPA releases findings, sample results for public comment and scientific review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft analysis of data from its Pavillion, Wyo., groundwater investigation. In 2008, EPA began investigating drinking water quality concerns in private wells at the request of Pavillion residents, and has been working in conjunction with the state of Wyoming, the local community and Encana, owner of the gas field, to assess groundwater quality and identify potential sources of contamination.

EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer. The draft report indicates that groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. EPA also retested private and public drinking water wells in the community. The samples were consistent with chemicals identified in earlier EPA results released in 2010 and are generally below established health and safety standards.

To ensure a transparent analysis, EPA is releasing these findings for public comment and will submit them to an independent scientific review panel. The draft findings announced are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells—production conditions different from those in many other areas of the U.S.

“EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “We will continue to work cooperatively with the state, tribes, Encana and the community to secure long-term drinking water solutions. We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process. In consultation with the tribes, EPA will also work with the state on additional investigation of the Pavillion field.”

EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the 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. The agency is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time.