Today the EPA has officially (as in, scientifically) linked the chemicals used in hydraulic fracking with contaminated drinking water and explosive bathwater in Wyoming.
Residents began complaining of fouled water near Pavillion in the mid-1990s, and the problems appeared to get worse around 2004. Several residents complained that their well water turned brown shortly after gas wells were fracked nearby, and, for a time, gas companies operating in the area supplied replacement drinking water to residents.
Beginning in 2008, the EPA took water samples from resident’s drinking water wells, finding hydrocarbons and traces of contaminants that seemed like they could be related to fracking. In 2010, another round of sampling confirmed the contamination, and the EPA, along with federal health officials, cautioned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when they bathed because the methane in the water could cause an explosion.
To confirm their findings, EPA investigators drilled two water monitoring wells to 1,000 feet. The agency released data from these test wells in November that confirmed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, and a chemical compound called 2 Butoxyethanol, which is known to be used in fracking.
Still, the EPA had not drawn conclusions based on the tests and took pains to separate its groundwater investigation in Wyoming from the national controversy around hydraulic fracturing. Agriculture, drilling, and old pollution from waste pits left by the oil and gas industry were all considered possible causes of the contamination.
In the report released today, the EPA said that pollution from 33 abandoned oil and gas waste pits – which are the subject of a separate cleanup program – are indeed responsible for some degree of shallow groundwater pollution in the area. Those pits may be the source of contamination affecting at least 42 private water wells in Pavillion. But the pits could not be blamed for contamination detected in the water monitoring wells 1,000 feet underground.
That contamination, the agency concluded, had to have been caused by fracking.
Of course, a spokesman for Pavillion wells owner EnCana claims “the science remains inconclusive…” Of course they do! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before! No one can definitively say that smoking causes lung cancer! That a diet drenched in high fructose corn syrup would lead to obesity! That human activity is responsible for climate change! Jury’s still out on all of this stuff! Sure, we can put men on the Moon and eradicate whole classes of diseases but when it comes to stuff that’s inconvenient for some folks, the science isn’t there yet!
So let’s just wait another 10 or 15 years (keep in mind, people started complaining about this stuff back in the ’90s), ignoring all of those earthquakes while discrediting the EPA study. Along the way be sure to buy off a few scientists, bully a few politicians, and when the cancers start appearing and the livestock starts dying, EnCana will be long gone, either out of business or purchased by some Vulture Capitalists who broke it into so many pieces, good luck finding a deep pocket to pay for cleanup and damages. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses: it’s the American way!
Oh, and be sure to remind everyone, ad nauseum, how cheap natural gas is! Thanks for playing, America!