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Pinedale water contamination mostly unconnected to gas production, study finds


A new Bureau of Land Management report indicates that most of the groundwater contamination near Pinedale was not caused by the energy industry.

After petroleum products showed up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in 2006, several agencies launched an investigation to figure out where the contamination was coming from. They concluded that some pollution occurred naturally, as gas seeped upward through geologic layers and into the groundwater. The report says other pollutants came from the process of drilling and installing water wells.

There were a few exceptions. In one case, contamination occurred because a well had not been plugged properly, and two other wells lacked backflow equipment, which is meant to prevent contamination from entering the wells. Merry Gamper with the BLM says those problems have been fixed.

“Key conclusions from the report are that there is no wide-spread contamination occurring from oil and gas operations on the Pinedale Anticline,” Gamper said.

Linda Baker with an environmental group called the Upper Green River Alliance says she’s not 100-percent satisfied by the report .

“I don’t doubt that natural sources can contribute various chemical and physical constituents to groundwater,” Baker said. “But certainly the use of all the chemicals in the whole process of natural gas extraction has an effect.”

But Gamper maintains that the report is rock solid.

“I have gone over this report I can’t tell you how many times,” she said. “I have looked at it from every single angle. I have looked for holes like you wouldn’t believe. And this is a strong report.”

The BLM will use the data from this report to draft new plans for monitoring groundwater and mitigating any future problems.

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