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Is ‘Fracking’ A Dirty Word? Pavillion, Wyoming Residents Think So
According to the December 8th latimes.com article, “EPA says ‘fracking’ probably contaminated well water in Wyoming”, per the Environmental Protection Agency, hydraulic fracturing, considered widely to be a controversial natural gas drilling process, most likely has contaminated well water in Wyoming. The report will no doubt add fuel to the fire regarding the debate over increasing gas drilling around the country.
According to the EPA’s new draft report, dangerous amounts of benzene in a monitoring well near the town of Pavillion, in central Wyoming, were found.
The EPA is conducting a comprehensive study about the possible effect of “fracking” on water resources; however, initial results are not expected until late 2012. Because of this, the Pavillion report may not give either side in the fracking debate the conclusive answers for which they’re looking.
However, the EPA report is the first that uses multiple, on-the-ground samples to determine the effect of fracking on underground water sources in areas of oil and gas development.
Per the latimes.com article, the EPA report says of the presence of synthetic chemicals found in the Wyoming water: “Alternative explanations were carefully considered to explain individual sets of data. However, when considered together with other lines of evidence, the data indicate likely impact to groundwater that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing.”
For years, it’s been the oil and gas industry versus the environmentalists over the threat hydraulic fracturing might pose to water, above or below ground. The issue has become more urgent as industry searches to tap into new sources of natural gas, spreading fracking from remote parts of the West to more populated areas in Texas, the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.
Fracking involves the process of shooting water infused with chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale formations to unlock reservoirs of natural gas.
Douglas Hock, an Encana spokesman for the Canadian company that has 169 producing wells in Pavillion, said of the EPA findings: “They don’t have a conclusion here, they have a probability — and we would argue that it is a very poor probability. Encana didn’t put methane and benzene there in the water, nature did. And the synthetics they have found in the water, we would argue that they were likely introduced by EPA’s own testing procedures.”
However, Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council was quoted as saying: “Experts, families in Wyoming and communities nationwide have known for some time that fracking poses serious threats to safe drinking water. EPA’s latest acknowledgment of that fact underscores the urgent need to get federal rules and safeguards on the books.”
About a decade ago, people in Pavillion began to notice a strange smell and taste to their well water, as well as illnesses in livestock. Per Deb Thomas, an organizer for the Powder River Basin Resources Council, which is a landowners group, the EPA began the study in 2009 after an estimated 20 well owners asked the agency to study their groundwater. She was quoted as saying: “It smells like a cross between something dead and diesel fuel. It’s a very chemical bad smell.”
The EPA report also made note of, per the article “shoddy drilling practices, and it raises questions about how common these shoddy drilling practices are” within the industry, said Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel for the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization.