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Study outlines risks of injecting waste into aquifer

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A study found that if wastewater were injected into a deep portion of the Madison Aquifer, it could potentially contaminate drinking water supplies in other areas.

Encana Oil and Gas has asked for permission to dispose of brine and drilling waste in the aquifer. The company says it would inject the waste into an area where water quality is already poor and which is so deep that it would be an impractical source for drinking water, regardless.

But the new study suggested that Encana’s calculations may be inaccurate. Jill Morrison is an organizer with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, one of the groups that commissioned the study. She says the study found that the water quality at the proposed injection site is actually quite good.

“More importantly, that waste injected at this location is not going to stay there,” Morrison said. “It’s going to flow away and likely move upwards.”

Morrison says that means injected waste could pollute water in shallower portions of the aquifer, which could be future sources of drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency is waiting for more information from Encana before deciding whether or not to approve their request.

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