Pavillion, WY — where the federal government’s testing of water led to early concerns about the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in nearby natural gas wells — has begun a state-sponsored mitigation program installing cisterns for residents who have been, or potentially could be, impacted by contaminated water. To date, there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announced Tuesday that the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has launched the cistern program, which is being funded by the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

No contamination of local drinking water was confirmed, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said the water is safe. However, the testing and initial reports last year have cast a pall over the area that is being felt in the day-to-day economy (see Shale Daily, March 1), prompting Mead and other state officials to help state lawmakers craft the cistern option.

On Tuesday, residents living in the Pavillion East Water Supply Project area, near the town of Pavillion in the west-central part of the state, started to receive the state-sponsored cistern systems from DEQ. This is where two EPA test wells have sparked concerns among residents and environmental activists who are opposed to fracking.

“Some of the people who live in this area have problems with their drinking water while others are being impacted by the perception about their water quality,” said Mead.

DEQ said participating residents will be responsible for delivery of the water to the cisterns from local town supplies. In addition, the participants have agreed to allow the state access to their existing wells for monitoring and testing.

Throughout the push-pull between the state and EPA, Mead has emphasized that the issue is a matter of having “valid tests, valid review and valid conclusions,” and then developing new policy based on those conclusions. He has advocated additional testing needing to be done on a state-federal basis (see Shale Daily, Feb. 8).

In early March, Wyoming lawmakers passed legislation to help bring a permanent solution to potential drinking water problems in the Pavillion area (see Shale Daily, March 7).

There were 35 non-vertical rigs in Wyoming in the first week of July, according to Smith Bits data. None were in Fremont County, where Pavillion is located. Encana, QEP Resources and Ultra operate a total of 11 non-vertical rigs in neighboring Sublette County; BP, Merit Energy and Wexpro (Questar) operate a combined six rigs in Sweetwater County south of Fremont County; and Anadarko Petroleum operates a single rig in Carbon County, southeast of Fremont County.