DEQ Will Take More Water Samples At Pavillion

Dec 9, 2016

Officials from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission answer questions from the public during Thursday night's meeting.
Credit Maggie Mullen

It was standing room only at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s public meeting Thursday, where the agency discussed the state’s final Pavillion groundwater contamination report.

During the meeting, the DEQ reiterated that it found fracking did not cause water contamination in Pavillion. But because the state has not ruled out the possibility that other parts of the oil and gas development process were responsible, the agency said it will take additional samples from fourteen different wells.

DEQ Director Todd Parfitt said the agency will be looking for what kinds of bacteria are in the well, and whether that bacteria is feeding on methane.

“We wanted to know definitively whether or not those constituents are present or absent, above or below specific action levels,” said Parfitt.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency turned over the investigation to the state in 2011 after finding that some water wells in the area had elevated levels of various petroleum compounds and methane. The state’s three-year, $900,000 investigation left some area residents unsatisfied, since it did not isolate a specific cause for changes in their drinking water, and did not consider the results of a peer-reviewed scientific study that directly linked fracking and water quality problems in the area.

Louis Meeks was one of the first Pavillion area residents to express concerns about changes in his water. Of the fourteen wells that will see additional sampling, three are on his land.

“Sure glad to hear that, I just hope they do it right,” said Meeks. “One of our big problems when things are happening out there, is there’s nobody to protect the people. We need somebody there to see that they’re doing this.”

Right now, some Pavillion area residents depend on a water delivery service paid for by the state and Encana, the oil and gas company that owns the Pavillion field. That program will end in March.