Pavilion, Wyoming located about 230 miles northeast of Salt Lake city is a small community surrounded by a natural gas well field, (up to 150 wells), owned and operated by Alberta based Encana Corporation. Encana uses hydraulic fracturing or “Fracking”, a controversial technology employed to recover and enhance natural gas and oil production from deep shale deposits in the ground. Responding to years of ongoing complaints from Pavilion residents about the water quality of their private drinking water wells, the EPA started working with state, local authorities and Encana three years ago. The EPA drilled two deep water monitoring test wells and began to test and assess the quality of the residents drinking water and to identify potential sources of contamination. On December 8th after two years of testing, the EPA released a preliminary draft report indicating that ground water in the Pavilion aquifer contains methane, benzene, other petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds, likely associated with these type(s) of gas production practices. The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists. “EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavilion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA regional administrator in Denver. “We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process.” – “We will continue to work cooperatively with the State, Tribes, Encana and the community to secure long-term drinking water solutions. This year the US House of Representatives investigative report on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing shows that of the 750 compounds in hydraulic fracturing products, “more than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants.” (Wiki) In another study in 2011, titled “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective” and published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal identified 632 chemicals used in natural gas operations. Only 353 of these are well-described in the scientific literature; and of these, more than 75% could affect skin, eyes, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; roughly 40-50% could affect the brain and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% were carcinogens and mutagens. The study indicated possible long-term health effects that might not appear immediately. The study recommended full disclosure of all products used, along with extensive air and water monitoring near natural gas operations; it also recommended that fracking’s exemption from regulation under the US Safe Drinking Water Act be rescinded. (Wiki) “In Wyoming, EPA is recognizing what experts — along with families in fracking communities across the country — have known for some time,” Kate Sinding, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City, said in an e-mail Thursday. “Fracking poses serious threats to safe drinking water.”
“Those of us who suffer the impacts from the unchecked development in our community are extremely happy the contamination source is being identified,” said Pavilion resident John Fenton. This year France banned the hydraulic fracturing technology used for exploration and extraction of shale natural gas and oil.