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Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens * Powder River Basin Resource Council
EARTHWORKS' Oil and Gas Accountability Project

Landowners, Groups Still Looking for Answers

Pavillion, WY Last night, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their sister agency, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released health and safety recommendations based on the second phase of testing in the Pavillion, WY drinking water investigation. The federal agencies recommended that residents not drink their water or use it for cooking. Additionally, residents were told to take specific precautions to avoid explosions due to methane contamination of drinking water. Precautions should include ventilation when taking showers and avoidance of ignitions in closed rooms where water is running.

Chemist and community justice advocate Wilma Subra says the agency's recommendations falls short. She maintains that residents should not shower with the water and need an alternative source for not only drinking but for all household use as well. “It's really important that people don't shower in toxics. Inhalation or skin absorption of methane and chemicals is harmful to health.”

Although EPA's Martin Hestmark told the crowd that Encana will provide drinking water to impacted residents, no specific household water alternatives were offered. “We are depending on EPA to ensure that Encana stands by their word,” said Louis Meeks, a Pavillion landowner. “We've been bullied and jerked around enough by industry. We need a reliable source of clean, safe water.”

ATSDR emphasized that this round of sampling reflects a single snap shot in time and does not provide a picture of well water quality over the long term. Dr. Michelle Waters and Chris Poulet of ASTDR urged residents to be cautious as the contamination may change and methane can build up to explosive levels.

“One of the most important things EPA confirmed last night was that the methane is coming from the natural gas formation,” said John Fenton, President of Pavillion Area Citizens. Methane detected in 7 drinking water wells was found to be of thermogenic origin meaning it originated in the gas reservoir. According to EPA, 2-Butoxyethanol Phosphate (2-BE-P), a chemical often referred to as a plasticizer or flame retardant was confirmed in 11 wells. A year ago EPA identified the chemical in only 2 wells.

“Water investigations, chemical identification and methane sourcing are steps forward for impacted communities,” says Jennifer Goldman, of Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “In the past, regulators and industry have often blamed landowners for well water contamination, and never even looked for chemicals.” Pavillion landowners requested EPA involvement over two years ago after years of failed attempts to engage State regulators.

“While a safe source of drinking water for the Pavillion community is paramount, we still need full disclosure of all hydrocarbons and toxic chemicals in Pavillion drinking water wells” said Deb Thomas, of Powder River Basin, “People in Pavillion are still very sick and safe drinking water is only one piece of the solution.”

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