Power & Water

Mead to meet with Pavillion residents to talk water supply

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will meet with Pavillion area residents from 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Monday to discuss strategies for a long-term drinking water supply. Residents in about two dozen homes currently rely on water filtration and commercial delivery service for drinking water due to health concerns related to groundwater in the area.

Currently, the state of Wyoming and EnCana Oil & Gas USA — the main operator of the Pavillion natural gas field — are paying for the water delivery service.

The meeting will be held at Central Wyoming College Intertribal Education and Community Center (room 116) in Riverton. “I am committed to the health and safety of the residents. We can explore a long term water strategy now while we wait for answers to other problems,” Mead wrote in a letter to Pavillion area resident John Fenton.

In 2009, many residents in the central Wyoming farming community were told by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to not drink or cook with water from their domestic wells due to the presence of hydrocarbons and high levels of sodium, and to use ventilation while showering due to methane concentrations in the water.

Residents in the area have long suspected that natural gas drilling and production activity in the area may have tainted groundwater supplies, including the shallow aquifer that residents tap for domestic and agricultural supplies. Pavillion is now at the center of a national debate over the potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — the method of pumping a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals under pressure to break open fissures in petroleum-bearing rock and shale formations to enhance the production of oil and natural gas.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an investigation of groundwater pollution in the Pavillion area, and the agency recently issued a draft report stating that oil and gas activity — including hydraulic fracturing — may contribute to the groundwater pollution.

“The findings (EPA’s) were immediately attacked by the state, industry and industry-friendly politicians,” Fenton said in a teleconference with the press on Tuesday. “All this while the people still sit here suffering the impacts and pretty much forgotten in all the political jousting that’s going on.”

The Wyoming Water Development Commission has studied potential water supply strategies, and in October issued a report (click here to download a PDF of the executive summary) recommending that rural residents form a water service district and possibly pay to extend a water pipeline from the town of Pavillion. Other options include individual water treatment systems, individual cisterns, or a central water well and distribution system. Estimated costs range from $175 per month for each individual home, to $1,225 per month.

“A whole house treatment system is upwards of $20,000, but they don’t remove a lot of the constituents we’re dealing with and it requires a huge amount of maintenance,” said Fenton.

Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at (307) 577-6069 or dustin@wyofile.com.

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Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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