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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  1. I was in Pavillon once years ago, the water was terrible then, totally undrinkable. The oil company nor the state should be responsible this.. They are trying to take advantage of the developement, in order to help themselves, and we wonder why gas is supposed to get to $5.00 a gal.

  2. So let’s force taxpayers or energy companies to pay for people’s wells gone bad–or more accurately, those who hit the lottery by living close enough to an industry with deep pockets. Of course, truth be told, it’s cheaper and probably better for the economics of the state to just fork over the cash. Fighting it will cost millions and could cause oil and gas to be curtailed. This is about selfish people who want taxpayers to pay for their misfortune and care nothing of what it does to jobs, gas prices, nothing. They get theirs, forget everyone else. Literally thousands of people in this state have wells gone bad, or no well, and haul water in big tanks on trailers or in pickup beds. The difference is these sad folks have not won the “blame” lottery so they have to pay for their water hauling. Perhaps Mr. Mead can get every free water service to make this really fair.

  3. We’ll see to what degree Matt Mead is governor for ALL the citizens of Wyoming, or whether he’s owned by the energy industry. So far, Matt is looking and sounding like an energy industry pawn, and not his own man. Stay tuned!