Finger pointing has begun among the federal, state and industry stakeholders in the ongoing effort to determine whether natural gas drilling in and around Pavillion, WY, has impacted ground water supplies.

The operating company in the area, a unit of Encana Corp., has raised red flags about alleged major differences between recent U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) test results and earlier U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests last year that raised the possibility that the gas drilling was the culprit.

Encana goes further in interpreting some of the USGS work to have proven that the two EPA test wells were inadequately constructed from the start, causing any testing results to be compromised. In the meantime, EPA has further infuriated Encana officials by declaring that its earlier test results and more recent USGS testing results are “generally consistent” with one another.

The EPA, USGS and Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) agreed earlier this year to test and analyze data from two test wells in Pavillion on a joint basis (see Shale Daily, March 1). Last week USGS issued two reports about groundwater samples taken in April and May but provided no new conclusions (see Shale Daily, Sept. 27).

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead told a press conference Tuesday that the process has gone smoothly for one of the test wells, but on the second there have been some disagreements (see Shale Daily, Oct. 3).

Encana officials have said USGS’s latest testing provides “a good comparison and is a good reality check” on the EPA’s assertion that USGS results support its own earlier testing. Mead refused to enter the fray, saying he will wait to make any comments until DEQ scientists have reviewed the data.

Encana provided NGI with a detailed side-by-side comparison of 24 different contaminants measured in the EPA and USGS work, and 16 were classified as not detected or not analyzed by USGS. Only four were not detected by EPA.

“The USGS validated its analytical results in accordance with EPA data validation standards,” said an Encana spokesperson. “To the best of our knowledge, EPA has not validated any of its analytical results.”