* EPA to retest water with Wyoming state, tribes
* Industry had raised questions about the report
* EPA delays peer review of draft report
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, March 9 The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has agreed to work with the Wyoming state
government to retest water supplies after a federal report last
year concluded natural gas drilling likely polluted a local
The EPA has been investigating an aquifer near natural gas
drilling in Pavillion, Wyoming, for years after residents
complained their drinking water smelled and tasted odd.
It concluded in a December draft report that chemicals
including benzene, alcohols and glycols likely migrated up into
the aquifer from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.
The oil and gas industry including EnCana, a
Canadian company that owns the gas field near Pavillion,
criticized the report, saying the contamination could have come
from the EPA's building of monitoring wells at the aquifer.
The EPA will now work with Wyoming state regulators and two
native American tribes to retest the water and "clarify
questions about the initial monitoring results," the agency said
in a release on Thursday. The EPA will also work with the U.S.
Geological Survey on the methodology and other aspects of the
The EPA has delayed the peer review process of the draft
study to include the results from the next phase of testing.
New drilling techniques such as fracking have revolutionized
the U.S. natural gas industry by giving companies access to vast
new reserves that could supply the country's demand for 100
years, according to the industry.
Environmentalists and health groups worry that some fracking
operations near homes and schools pollute water and air. The
industry denies that water supplies have ever been tainted by
WYOMING MORE VULNERABLE
The EPA said in December that Wyoming, which produced more
than 10 percent of U.S. natural gas in 2010, was much more
vulnerable than most areas to water contamination from fracking
because drilling there often takes place closer to the surface
than in other states.
In 1987, the agency documented one case of well water
pollution from fracking fluids used by Kaiser Exploration and
Mining at a site in West Virginia. That was the only previous
case in which the federal government said fracking polluted
The new tests in Wyoming will take place at monitoring wells
the agency built at the aquifer to take the original samples.
EnCana spokesman Doug Hock said the agreement demonstrated
that the draft report was "rushed" and that the assertions were
not supported by the data. The company said the monitoring wells
should be independently re-examined given the questions raised
after the draft report was released.
The EPA did not immediately respond to questions about that
EnCana and the Wyoming state government have been paying for
water deliveries for about 25 homes in the area. This week,
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed a law that would direct
$750,000 to developing a longer-term solution providing safe
water to residents.