Governor Matt Mead said today that the Environmental Protection Agency's draft study on Pavillion wells is scientifically questionable and more testing is needed.
"We believe that the draft study could have a critical impact on the energy industry and on the country so it is imperative that we not make conclusions based on only four data points," Governor Mead said. "Those familiar with the scientific method recognize that it would not be appropriate to make a judgment without verifying all of the testing that has been done."
Residents near Pavillion have complained about their water wells for several years. They are entitled to answers and they need clean water. Therefore, Wyoming formed a working group to investigate the problem. That group included residents, state agencies, Tribes, EPA and the Bureau of Land Management. The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of the working group until a month ago.
"The first review of the study by the Pavillion Working Group was unable to resolve many of the questions related to the sources of the compounds detected," said John Corra, Director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and a member of the Working Group. State agencies, representatives of the Tribes and the BLM all raised similar concerns to the EPA.
Specifically, Wyoming and other members of the Pavillion Working Group have raised questions about the lack of replication of testing (typically findings from only two sampling events suggest that more sampling is needed before conclusions can be drawn). Members of the working group also have questions about the compound 2-BE, which was found in 1 sample out of 4 that were taken, and why it was only found in results from one lab, while other labs tested the exact same water sample and did not find it.
"More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning results," Tom Doll said. Doll is the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Supervisor and a member of the Pavillion Working Group.
Governor Mead has asked the EPA to partner with Wyoming and industry to do the necessary further testing. He said he was pleased to hear that the EPA would be willing to partner in that effort. Wyoming will take part in the peer review of the draft. "My takeaway message is that both the EPA and Wyoming believe this is only the beginning of the process to understand the cause and scope of what was found. There are too many questions raised by what we have seen so far to not pursue further information," Governor Mead said.
"We do not want to predetermine the outcome of further research, but do feel the need for more thoroughness. I want to know what happened in Pavillion and feel the responsible approach is to do more testing," Governor Mead said. "What we do know is that there has not been fracking in this area for several years and that there have been significant changes in our drilling regulations since then. Wyoming has led the country in regulating fracking because we want to protect our people, protect the environment and bring energy to the nation. More research will only help us."
Earlier testing did show problems with a few drinking wells near Pavillion. The working group will continue to explore causes with those wells. Currently, the people with concerns about their drinking water are being provided water by industry. Wyoming has also commissioned a study to look at alternative water supplies for these residents.