Encana Passes the Buck on Contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming by John Fenton, January/February 2008, Powder River Basin Newsletter
For decades, wells on the Meeks and Locker ranches near Pavillion had reliably delivered clean, clear water for their homes, stock tanks and gardens. But that ended in early 2005, shortly after EnCana Oil & Gas USA took over development of the surrounding gas fields. Almost immediately, water in the Meeks home began to stink. It left ugly stains in the sinks and tubs. Louis Meeks and his family stopped drinking it. At the Locker home, the water ran gray, coating hoses and fittings in a greasy black slime.
… With all the crafty calculation of an O.J. Simpson defense lawyer, EnCana’s “geology consultant” found all kinds of other explanations for the degradation of the groundwater the Meeks and Locker families used to rely on. On contract to the developer, Anthony Gorody pointed his finger at the families’ neighbors––and the families themselves. Those folks had used pesticides on their pastures, he mused accusingly. And what about those household septic systems? As for tests Meeks himself had paid for, Gorody concluded with no apparent basis that the findings were tainted. Glycol––an ingredient in the fluids oil and gas companies use to break up underground rock to release their precious gas ––had been found in the samples Meeks sent in, Gorody conceded. But, he added, it must have come from someplace else. It was probably due, he finally decided, to sloppy scientists and technicians who had introduced it in the lab.
… And the state’s environmental bureaucrats? Paralyzed by doubt, boxed in by rules and regulations the oil and gas industry has helped them write, they appeared to accept the self-serving questions Gorody and other industry apologists raised. Problems clearly plagued the Meeks and Locker water supplies, some of them agreed, but it was way too early to pin those problems on any definite cause. In the meantime, though, they’ve allowed EnCana to put its so-called “voluntary remediation program” on hold––just as that program was beginning to produce solid findings of contamination.
… To begin with, the oil and gas industry––as well as the state officials who are supposed to regulate it––could agree to actually listen and offer a meaningful response when landowners raise red flags about the impacts of development. As things stand now, residents’ concerns are too often dismissed or even ridiculed, and landowners are forced to make their cases on their own, at their own expense. Next, the industry’s routine assurances that it is already heavily regulated, and that therefore nothing bad can possibly happen, must be closely and skeptically reviewed. … Finally, we have to learn to look beyond the legalistic and scientific smokescreens industry mouthpieces pump out whenever ordinary people––people like Louis Meeks and his neighbors––bring us clear evidence of dangerous impacts from oil and gas development. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to Fracking Contamination ‘Will Get Worse’: Alberta Expert Dr. Karlis Muehlenbachs and Inflaming a Conflict, Alberta Landowners Claim Coal-bed Methane Drilling Contaminates their Water ]