State-led Pavillion area groundwater investigation begins by Laura Hancock, August 3, 2013, Star-Tribune
State employees who are investigating groundwater quality east of Pavillion will look at data collected from 14 domestic water wells found to contain chemicals of concern. They also will look at the integrity of oil and natural gas exploration and production wells and pits — which are holes dug by the oil and gas industry to store water and drilling fluids that come out of their wells — located close to the domestic wells. That’s according to state officials who are members of the Pavillion working group, which met here Friday afternoon to discuss the state investigation. In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turned the investigation of groundwater concerns in the area over to the state. The investigation into the cause of the water containing chemicals of concern has garnered attention in the national debate over hydraulic fracturing, with critics of the oil and gas industry
blaming the chemicals on fracking. But officials with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Gov. Matt Mead’s office and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality say they are months from pointing fingers as to the source of the chemicals. They emphasized the importance of a scientific investigation. About 40 people, many Pavillion residents, attended the Friday meeting, where they learned that the investigation into the 14 wells and pits is being broken into three parts, with separate reports due at different times. Two reports are due by Dec. 31 and one is due by Sept. 20, 2014. But due dates could change.
Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor Grant Black said that timelines need to be flexible in the name of science. “I hope everyone here would appreciate the value here of doing that and doing that right,” he said. Members of the Pavillion working group warned residents that reports may not provide definitive answers about the cause of unpalatable water or unwanted chemicals. “I suspect we will identify some data gaps that we would likely recommend for further analysis,” said Kevin Frederick, administrator of Wyoming DEQ’s Water Quality Division. Answers may come later, he said. There are numerous domestic water wells in the area east of Pavillion. But 14 were chosen for the investigation. “These 14 lie within a quarter mile of existing or stored reserve and production pits, or oil and gas wells that were drilled with oil-based muds, or areas where the surface casing of production wells is similar to that of the depths of some of the water supply wells,” Frederick said. Todd Parfitt, director of Wyoming DEQ, said his agency will test water quality in the wells before and after irrigation season, since irrigation water can get introduced into the well water. His agency will also look at construction of the 14 water wells, “and if necessary we may do some down-hole video work,” he said.
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is interested in data about the integrity of oil and gas well bores. That’s the cement and steel casing that lines a well, said Black, the state oil and gas supervisor. Black said the pits came in a variety of forms. Some were lined. Some were unlined. “In later years, they used fully contained systems where there were no pits,” he said. “They had tanks.” Some of the pits have been closed and reclaimed, he said. Black said he doesn’t yet know all the details about the various pits. “That’s part of why we’re collecting all this information is so we know how they were constructed, when they were constructed, what they were used for, how they were closed,” he said.
John Fenton is a rancher with one of the 14 wells on his property. He is a member of the Pavillion working group, but does not feel like an equal at the table. Also at the table is production and exploration well owner Encana Oil and Gas, which has made money available for the study. “We’re the last people to know” about the Encana money, Fenton said about Pavillion residents on the working group. “So we’re not being treated on equal grounds and I still can’t get over that.” Fenton said that he’s waited for years for an answer to the question of what is the the source of chemicals in the water. He hopes the state doesn’t rush through the investigation just to meet deadlines and finish it. Mead wrote a letter to Fenton on July 16, which the governor’s spokesman sent to the Star-Tribune on Friday. In it Mead said he was aware of Fenton’s frustrations. He described meeting with a group called the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, of which Fenton is chairman, touring their homes and sending a staffer to tour the community. “State agencies have committed time, resources and professional expertise,” Mead’s letter said. “They will continue to commit those resources as they assume a leadership role. I maintain an open door policy.” Deb Thomas, an organizer with the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, is interested in who the state will choose to provide the outside expert advice and peer review as part of the study. “I think that if all the stakeholders are involved in the process, it will be fair,” she said. “It’s very important that local landowners be involved.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
The Science is Deafening
Industry’s Contamination Everywhere
Regulator and Protective Agencies Run for Cover
June 14 ERCB closes the Campbell’s (Alberta ranchers) drinking water contamination investigation after 8 years of investigation*
June 15 Encana misses their promised deadline to file Statement of Defence on the Ernst vs Encana case after being served April 2011
June 18 US EPA announces 2 year delay of comprehensive frac study
June 20 US EPA pulls out of Pavillion water contamination investigation after 4 years;Encana takes over with $1.5 million donation
June 24 Duke Study #2 on drilling and frac’ing causing methane contamination of groundwater published online, affirms Study #1
Duke Study #1 reported 17x more methane in groundwater near drilled and frac’d wells, published online May 9, 2011.
EES = Ernst Environmental Services
*On November 16, 2006, the regulator wrote that the Campbell’s well water was the “only affected water in Alberta.” ]