Fracking: Polluted water in Wyoming could spell trouble in Colorado

roan wellpads.jpg
Colorado oil pads.
The release of an EPA report detailing suspected groundwater contamination from gas drilling operations in Wyoming comes just as Colorado is weighing tougher restrictions and wider disclosures about the hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" process -- and may serve as Exhibit A for environmental groups opposing the practice. All of which should make for a lively session at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meeting on Monday.

The EPA draft report comes after three years of resident complaints about fouled drinking water around the town of Pavilion in west-central Wyoming, where the gas giant Encana operates 169 production wells. Monitoring wells detected numerous chemical compounds used in the fluids energy companies inject into the ground to force out pockets of oil and gas, including benzene and toluene. "Given the area's complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to groundwater contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time," the agency noted in a statement on the report.

Environmental activists contend that the Pavilion results show that the industry's claims about the safety of the process are overblown. While supporters of fracking say the chemicals are injected thousands of feet below aquifers and can't possibly reach them, the Wyoming wells were fracked at a shallow level, around a thousand feet below the surface, and the casing that's supposed to protect the groundwater went down less than 400 feet.

But at least Wyoming officials know what toxic chemicals the company was using. The Cowboy State passed a law last year requiring the companies to disclose their fracking recipes, while Colorado is still mulling over such a measure.

The Wyoming contamination is still under investigation, and industry spokesmen maintain that the situtation isn't typical of the way fracking is conducted in Colorado or elsewhere. But it does make you wonder if Governor John Hickenlooper's declaration a few months ago that groundwater contamination from fracking is "almost inconceivable" will prove to be -- well, almost as hard to swallow as some Pavilion well water.

Click to check out our earlier coverage on the fracking industry's intensive lobbying campaign and the state's efforts to allay fears.

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Gary Neece
Gary Neece

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Pete Troester
Pete Troester

CU grad and frac field engineer here. Fracing is not the problem, it's lack of regulation. The process itself is extremely safe and poses very little risk to public health. The real issues come from inadequate construction, inspection, and maintenance of the structure of the wells themselves (leaks) and the improper disposal of flowback/produced water. Neither are directly involved with the actual process of fracing and are secondary. Yes, those problems are absolutely legitimate and do cause problems, but they are easily solved with more regulation. If fracing were to be banned outright our domestic supply of hydrocarbons would plummet, send prices sky rocketing, and cripple our economy even more so than it already is. Please, educate yourself and do research on this topic because most news sources are biased and factually inaccurate about many aspects of fracing. This comment thread about a different article addressing this same EPA report has tons of good information that needs to be seen by more people. http://tinyurl.com/7t97kkk

Muxlow90:  I strongly disagree it is getting out of zone...

Pete Troester
Pete Troester

CU grad and frac field engineer here. Fracing is not the problem, it's lack of regulation. The process itself is extremely safe and poses very little risk to public health. The real issues come from inadequate construction, inspection, and maintenance of the structure of the wells themselves (leaks) and the improper disposal of flowback/produced water. Neither are directly involved with the actual process of fracing and are secondary. Yes, those problems are absolutely legitimate and do cause problems, but they are easily solved with more regulation. If fracing were to be banned outright our domestic supply of hydrocarbons would plummet, send prices sky rocketing, and cripple our economy even more so than it already is. Please, educate yourself and do research on this topic because most news sources are biased and factually inaccurate about many aspects of fracing. This comment thread about a different article addressing this same EPA report has tons of good information that needs to be seen by more people. http://tinyurl.com/7t97kkk

Muxlow90
Muxlow90

lol I work on hydraulic fracturing. The zones we frac are 1500-3000m depending on intervals and TD of the well. But big wells they are pumping fourty 60m3 tanks downhole, at a constant pressure of 35mPa. It's going to leak past the shale..

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arellacheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the"fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other.

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arellacheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the"fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other.

LOrion
LOrion

Where is your analysis of levels of 'benzene' which is CARCINOGENIC not just toxic and 'toluene'..which is just severely toxic!  HORRIFIC thought for these to be in drinking water!

Bert Orn
Bert Orn

I don't want a job if it contributes to my death.  I don't want a job if it contributes to my failing health and thus feed the healthcare leeches.  I don't want a job only to feed the wealthy who will live longer than I.  I don't want a job if my labor will only perpetuate the exploitation of my offspring.  I don't want a job if my labor will destroy our free water supply.  I don't want a job if it contributes to destroying mother earth so the wealthy can then move on to outer space to destroy another planet.  Abolish NASA!

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting take, Bert -- one we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

Blokzhyvlennja
Blokzhyvlennja

  who said industries can police themselves? that's why we have a EPA to protect us from those poluters. And who want to kill EPA? Republicans. sgih.

Guest
Guest

Why am I not fracking surprised, no wonder Gingrich's budget includes disolving the EPA.

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