EPA, Wyo., tribes agree to more groundwater testsCHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The state of Wyoming, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two American Indian tribes have agreed to additional testing of groundwater that the federal agency says may have become contaminated by gas development that includes hydraulic fracturing.
By: Mead Gruver, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The state of Wyoming, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two American Indian tribes have agreed to additional testing of groundwater that the federal agency says may have become contaminated by gas development that includes hydraulic fracturing.
They also agreed to postpone a scientific peer review of a draft EPA report on the contamination in the Pavillion area in central Wyoming until after the additional sampling and analysis. The peer review had been scheduled to begin this month.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses pressurized water, sand and chemicals to crack open fissures within wells and improve the flow of oil and gas. A report released in December was the first time the EPA said fracking may have polluted groundwater.
Gov. Matt Mead said Thursday that the U.S. Geological Survey will conduct two more rounds of testing before July. The first round of testing will occur within the next month.
"The hope is to do another round of testing, too, in the next quarter. That matches up with best practices, to give it awhile and pull another sample," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said.
The water samples will be taken from the same two monitoring wells the EPA previously drilled to test for groundwater pollution in the Pavillion gas field. As before, the samples will be divided up and sent to different labs for analysis, MacKay said.
People near the tiny community of Pavillion had praised the December report. Some had complained for years that their well water began to stink of chemicals around the time that fracking increased in their neighborhood in the early 2000s.
They asked the EPA to investigate after what they have described as a reluctance to do so by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The oil and gas industry, especially Calgary-based Encana, the primary operator in the Pavillion gas field, objected to much of the EPA study and report. Wyoming officials, including Mead, faulted the report as well.
The Northern Arapaho and Eastern tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation neighboring Pavillion also signed off on a joint statement on the agreement for more testing.
"We believe that collaboration and use of the best available science are critical in meeting the needs of Pavillion area residents and resolving longstanding issues surrounding the safety of drinking water and groundwater," according to the joint statement.
MacKay said the agreement for more testing and analysis followed a phone conversation between Mead and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Feb. 24 and a breakfast meeting in person in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26.
EPA officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow Mead Gruver on Twitter at https://twitter.com/meadgruver