Today, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality ("DEQ") released its final report on the water quality issues within the Pavillion Gas Field Cistern Area entitled, "Pavillion, Wyoming Area Domestic Water Wells Final Report and Palatability Study" ("Final Report"). A full copy of the Final Report can be found here.

  • Refresher:

By way of background and to remind you of what we are talking about, Pavillion, Wyoming, is a tiny town located in Fremont County that came into the headlines in about 2009 when the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") came to my home state in response to complaints about water quality.

The controversy was over whether hydraulic fracturing in the Pavillion Gas Field contributed to the pollution/contamination an underground aquifer that was a source of drinking water.

As reported by the EPA, in March of 2009, the EPA sampled 39 individual wells to "collect data to assess groundwater conditions and evaluate potential threats to human health and the environment." The EPA further conducted additional sampling in January of 2010 of 21 domestic wells and has "sampled groundwater and soil from pit remediation sites, produced water, and condensate from five production wells." The EPA also installed two monitoring wells in the Pavillion area in 2010.

The EPA turned over the investigation to the State of Wyoming in 2013.

The full timeline of events can be found here.

  • Takeaways from the Final Report:
  1. Unlikely hydraulic fracturing impacted water. According to the Pavillion Groundwater Report Fact Sheet: "Evidence does not indicate that hydraulic fracturing fluids have risen to shallow depths utilized by water-supply wells. Also, based on an evaluation of hydraulic fracturing history, and methods used in the Pavillion Gas Field, it is unlikely that hydraulic fracturing has caused any impacts to the water-supply wells."
  2. Issues with inorganic compounds are likely naturally occurring. There are also a lot of factors at play such as the origin of the gas coming from an upward migration in the Wind River Formation and presence of bacteria in water-supply wells that must be considered.
  3. There is limited baseline water quality data, predating development of the Pavillion Gas Field that hinders reaching firm conclusions on causes and effects of reported water quality changes.
  4. According to the Casper Star Tribune, the findings in the Final Report do not substantially deviate from the study conducted by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission which was completed in 2014.
  • What is Next?

According to the Pavillion Groundwater Report Fact Sheet:

A public meeting is scheduled to be held in Riverton, Wyoming in early December of 2016 to provide the opportunity for clarification on the information on the report.

The bottled water delivery program that was instituted is set to end on March 31, 2017.

Further monitoring is recommended and the Final Report includes a recommendation that the EPA plug its monitoring wells in the field.

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