After a three year, $900,000 investigation, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has concluded fracking did not cause water contamination in Pavillion. But the agency has not ruled out contamination from oil and gas development in general.
Pavillion emerged at the center of the national debate over fracking back in 2011 when the Environmental Protection Agency released a report showing elevated levels of various petroleum compounds and methane in some area water wells.
The federal government eventually handed the investigation over to the state and the DEQ re-sampled about a dozen water wells for a range of contaminants. The department found no chemicals directly associated with fracking, but they did find inorganic contaminants that could be linked to oil and gas.
John Fenton is one of the people who experienced changes in their water quality. He says the lack of solid conclusions in the report is disappointing.
“It took three years to get to this point—at least three years—with the state, and we don’t know anything," he said. "We know that they might do something and they’re thinking about some things. They seem to be really good at taking their sweet time.”
The state has said it will do additional studies and assessments, including looking at possible contamination from oil and gas wastewater pits, and whether gas is seeping up well bores, but did not provide a timeline for any of those activities.