WY initiates its Pavillion investigation

Aug 5, 2013

As the state initiates its investigation of water quality issues in Pavillion, two state agencies plan to review existing data before deciding how to proceed. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality will look at the well bore integrity of about 50 oil and gas wells within a quarter mile of 14 domestic water wells that had at least one pollutant at levels above drinking water standards. 

Natural Resources advisor to the Governor, Jerimiah Rieman, says the agencies are dealing with data that could be decades old, from different time frames and regulatory structures and he says it’s possible there will be holes. He also says they will look at recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s abandoned report.    

“One of the areas that comes forward is the monitoring wells that the EPA drilled. We have not excluded the valuation of that data through this next phase of the investigation. That review though may determine that that’s not the most useful information for us in determining the next steps in the investigation,” Rieman says.  

The state will also study pit reclamation efforts and look at domestic water wells in the area. It hopes to have the first two reports completed by the end of the year, and the third in the fall of 2014. The agencies will look for experts to assist with the work, though it’s not yet clear at what point their expertise will be solicited.  

Meanwhile, the state is going ahead with the installation of water cisterns for residents in the area to supply clean water.

Rieman says the state is still dealing with paperwork but could start installing the first cisterns as early as this month.

“Not every resident that gets a cistern will be demanding water. Some of those cisterns are being used to ensure that their property values remain steady, or at least come back to a reasonable level. Again, the Governor has been committed to ensuring that there is a water source available beyond what exists right now and will continue to work on that and get the funding in place so that we can be putting water into those cisterns for those who want it,” says Rieman. 

So far, about 24 households of the 35 in the area defined as eligible have signed up for the Cisterns. Rieman says there isn’t a strict deadline for signing up, but encourages those who are interested to do so soon.