Residents of Wyoming Fracking Community Report Illnesses

Residents of Pavillion, Wyoming may be getting sick because of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking. According to an Associated Press report, the group Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project says that four out of five people who have returned a health survey report symptoms that could be linked to gas drilling operations in and around Pavillion. In the past, residents of the central Wyoming town have complained that fracking polluted their well water.

In addition to respiratory problems, residents of Pavillion have also reported headaches, nausea, itchy skin, dizziness and other ailments. Earthworks said in its press release that the ailments could be the result of exposure while people shower or wash dishes with contaminated water. The scientist conducting the survey told the Associated Press that illnesses reported are associated with the types contaminants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified in Pavillion well water.

As we’ve reported previously, the Canadian drilling company EnCana began ramping up gas development in the Pavillion/Muddy Ridge field earlier this decade. In 2000, more than 100 new wells were drilled, and two compressor plants – a large one and a smaller facility – were built in the area.

Last year, the EPA began sampling in the Pavillion area in response to multiple landowners concerns about changes in water quality and quantity following EnCana’s increased drilling. In August of last year, the EPA announced that its initial investigations found 11 of 39 tested drinking water wells were contaminated. Among the contaminants found were toxics used in oil and gas production. This, after the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and EnCana had continually assured Pavillion residents that there was no evidence of hydrocarbons or toxic chemicals in their drinking water wells.

According to an Earthworks press release issued at that time, the EPA confirmed the presence of 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), a known constituent in hydraulic fracturing fluids, in three wells. The agency also found methane, as well as adamantanes (a form of hydrocarbon) and six other chemical compounds of concern in Pavillion wells.

Earthworks concedes that only 16 surveys have been returned by Pavillion residents thus far, but more are coming in. The EPA has asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to review the survey, according to the Associated Press.

The EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry plan to discuss their latest water sampling and health findings in the area at a meeting Aug. 31 in Pavillion.

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