Pavillion is a small town (165, according to the 2000 census) located in west-central Wyoming, and late last week the US EPA found synthetic chemicals used in hydraulic-fracturing in two deep water-monitoring wells near a gas field outside the town.
Fracking allows the US to get about one-third more natural gas from underground stores. It encompasses pumping millions of gallons of a pressurized mixture of chemically treated water and sand underground to fracture rock and let trapped gas vapor flow, thus increasing extraction rates.
With the EPA’s report, environmentalist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, are now pushing for stronger regulation…sorry freedoms.
Though the above photograph wasn’t taken in Pavillion (it was taken in a town about 2 1/2 hours away in Casper, Wyoming, where I had the pleasure of visiting last September) I’m sure Pavillion’s largest natural gas producer (Encana) hold the same, if not similar sentiments, when it comes to regulations.
I know the residents don’t, as they were the ones who asked the EPA to address water quality issues in the first place and have had to use outside drinking water sources for drinking and cooking.
Although my secret ambition is to be Erin Brockovich and expose corporate negligence, pollution, extortion…what have you…I’ll try to abstain. But it’s difficult, very difficult indeed, when Doug Hock, spokesperson for Encana, responds to the EPA report by saying since the EPA uses terms like “likely”, it means the report isn’t definitive. Hock continues by saying EPA might be the culprit behind the well contamination when they conducted sampling.
An industry representative for Chesapeake Energy Corp, Aubrey McClendon, goes on to say, “Try not to be the 51st person to write a story about the alleged contamination of somebody’s water well from fracking.” Well Aubrey, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume if there are so many reports of contamination, no one’s having smoke blown up their well…so to speak. If fracking is in the neighborhood, there might be a very good chance aquifers and wells are contaminated because of it.
As it is, gas companies don’t need to disclose the chemicals used in fracking. By his own admission, Hock said he didn’t know if the chemicals found were used by his company. Now I don’t know what’s worse, a company not having to disclose the chemicals being used in close proximity to drinking water sources, or the fact the spokesperson “doesn’t know” what chemicals said company uses whilst fracking.
The EPA does admit there could be a variety of reason contamination leaked into wells–faulty construction from the beginning, gaps in the rock, fractures created by drilling–but the evidence still stands, petroleum hydrocarbons were present in the water at levels well above acceptable drinking water standard.
Whichever way you look at it, regulations need to be stronger, because if drinking water contamination is present in Wyoming fracking sites, the chances of it being elsewhere is also likely.
But thanks to Encana, “likely” isn’t definitive enough of an answer to claim responsibility.