Monday, March 28, 2016

EPA criticizes Wyoming study that said fracking not responsible for contaminated wells

The Environmental Protection Agency has criticized a report by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that said hydraulic fracturing likely played little role in polluted water wells in the area east of Pavillion, Wyo. (Best Places map), Benjamin Storrow reports for the Billings Gazette. EPA said "Wyoming regulators downplayed health concerns, glossed over ambiguities and made unsubstantiated claims about the source of contamination in their study." EPA's comments "raised questions over state officials' contention that natural gas operations are not responsible for pollution found in some water wells outside this central Wyoming community of roughly 230 people."

The state report "linked contamination in the wells to naturally occurring pollutants," Storrow writes. "Methane buildup in landowners' water was more likely a product of natural seepage from shallow geologic formations than gas production, the state concluded."

"EPA repeatedly questioned those claims in its review of the state study, saying Wyoming investigators lacked the evidence, or relied on limited proof, to make their assertions," Storrow writes. "Federal regulators noted the DEQ did not cite any evidence for its claim that small amounts of fracking fluid were used to stimulate the Pavillion field's gas wells—a central tenant of the state's argument that the practice was not to blame for the polluted water. And while state investigators acknowledged a gap in the protective layer encasing many Pavillion gas wells, they failed to examine whether fracking fluids could have escaped through those openings, the EPA found." (Read more)

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