Conflicting reports fuel fracking debate tied to Wyoming town
By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Government testing of a drinking water aquifer near a tiny Wyoming town has shown concentrations of gases like ethane and propane and diesel compounds, but a natural gas company said it did not cause the contamination.
A report by the U.S. Geological Survey showed petroleum-based pollutants in samples from a monitoring well in the aquifer adjacent to Pavillion, Wyoming, which is at the center of a national debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
A draft study released in December by the Environmental Protection Agency linked fluids used in fracking, a drilling method that has unlocked vast shale gas deposits across the nation, to pollution in the underground formation that supplies drinking water to residents near Encana Corp's gas production wells east of Pavillion.
The findings contradicted claims by gas drillers that fluids from fracking, which injects water, sand and chemicals underground to boost extraction of fuel, have never contaminated drinking water.
Criticism by the oil and gas industry and Wyoming officials of the methods the EPA employed to collect water quality data and regulators' interpretation of the findings prompted recent retesting under a monitoring plan designed by the state, the USGS and the EPA.
Compared to the 2011 EPA study, the USGS results from testing of one of two monitoring wells in the aquifer indicated higher levels of gases like methane, lower levels of diesel-range organics and the absence of such solvents as toluene, an Encana analysis showed.
The EPA is expected in coming days to release its testing of water from two groundwater monitoring wells, several domestic wells and a public well. The data sets are to be submitted for peer review.
The EPA said the groundwater monitoring data in its 2011 report and USGS findings were "generally consistent." Continued...