October 8, 2018

Three independent scientists who have investigated the oil and gas contamination in the Pavillion area will present their analysis on Thursday, October 18 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Central Wyoming College, Intertribal Center, Room 125, in Riverton.

The scientists presenting at the forum are:  Mike Wireman, a hydro-geologist and former EPA groundwater expert; Sue Spencer, a Wyoming hydro-geologist who investigated the Pavillion area oil and gas field, and Dominic DiGuilio, a former EPA environmental engineer and senior research scientist who did subsequent research work at Stanford University.

Spencer, who spent years investigating the Pavillion area gas field noted, “The discovery of oil and gas contamination in the EPA monitoring wells should have been the beginning of a focused site investigation into the extent of contamination in the Pavillion area of the Wind River Aquifer. Instead, the state took control of the investigation and seems to be trying to sweep the problem under the rug. We still have a poor understanding of the nature and extent of contamination, and there are still many unanswered questions.”

Powder River Basin Resource Council is hosting this free, public event in order to update the community on the history of the contamination, the status of clean-up, costs, and the future supply of drinking water to the community. Impacted landowners will also present their stories of how the development, and its subsequent contamination, has affected their lives and livelihoods.  Regulators from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Department of Environmental Quality, and the Bureau of Land Management were invited to attend the event but have declined to participate due to ongoing investigations.

The forum will examine the history of what went wrong with oil and gas development in Pavillion and will also highlight ongoing work to get both the State of Wyoming and Encana, the company who is the owner and operator of the field, to address the extent of contamination, plug the leaking wells, and clean-up the old waste pits as well as provide clean drinking and livestock water to impacted residents for the foreseeable future.

According to state and federal investigations, the Pavillion area oil and gas field had 57 unlined disposal pits where drilling fluids containing diesel fuel were dumped. These unlined pits were within 2,000 feet of 48 domestic wells. Investigations also revealed many leaking gas wells with inadequate casing that failed to protect the drinking water aquifer.

Impacted Pavillion area landowner Evelyn Griffin said, “After the 2011 EPA report came out documenting groundwater contamination and implicating the oil and gas industry, Wyoming took over the investigation, and the door was slammed in the landowners’ faces. Since then, the state disbanded the Pavillion Working Group, and we have not been involved or well-informed about what is happening with the clean-up, plugging, or the contamination in our area.

The groundwater contamination has long-term implications for the area’s economy, even impacting residents whose water sources weren’t harmed. Pavillion area landowner Jennifer Murdock said, “The impact of the Pavillion area water situation has been devastating for us as landowners. Even though we have no contamination of our water well, we have been unable to sell our property. Potential, committed buyers can’t find lenders willing to finance them under the ongoing circumstances in our area.”

The forum is free and open to the public. Attendees may park in the Art Center parking lot on the college campus. For more information on the Pavillion forum, contact Powder River at 307-672-5809 or email info@powderriverbasin.org.