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EPA releases results of Pavillion, Wyo. water well testing

Release Date: 09/01/2010
Contact Information: Rich Mylott, U.S. EPA, 303-312-6654, Vivi Abrams, ATSDR, 770-488-0700  

Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issues health recommendations
(Denver, Colo. – September 1, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the latest data from sampling conducted at Pavillion-area water wells yesterday at a public meeting at the Pavillion Recreation Center. Sample results indicate that the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds in groundwater represents a drinking water concern. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has analyzed EPA’s data and recommends that affected well owners take several precautionary steps, including using alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking. EPA has not made any conclusions about the sources of chemical compounds found in drinking water wells.

“EPA will work as long as necessary to ensure that Pavillion residents have safe water,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “While our investigation continues, EPA has secured commitments from our partners to identify alternate sources of water for affected homes and to evaluate long-term solutions.“

EPA’s sampling detected several petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene and methane, in wells and in groundwater. EPA found low levels of petroleum compounds in 17 of 19 drinking water wells sampled. Sample results also confirm that nearby shallow groundwater is contaminated with high levels of petroleum compounds.  There is uncertainty regarding the potential for this contaminated shallow groundwater to migrate to the drinking water aquifer.

EPA also found a number of inorganic constituents such as sodium and sulfates in drinking and groundwater wells. Concentrations of these compounds and metals were generally within ranges  identified in previous studies.

Over the past week, officials from EPA and ATSDR met privately with individual residents to provide health information and recommendations based on well-specific sampling results. ATSDR has analyzed EPA’s data and recommends that affected well owners take several precautionary health measures including using alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, and, for homes affected by methane gas in wells, ventilating rooms while showering. Additional ATSDR recommendations can be found in the consultation document. ATSDR’s analysis of sample results did not find health concerns related to inhalation exposure to chemicals while showering or using evaporative coolers.

EPA is working closely with various government partners and EnCana, the primary gas producer in the area, to ensure that affected residents receive water and to address potential sources.  This includes securing access to alternate water sources, as well as the evaluation of potential long-term solutions such as water treatment systems and infrastructure.  EPA and partners will work on the details of agreements over the next several weeks and will consult with the community to ensure actions taken to secure safe water meet local needs.
EPA’s Analytical Results Report and additional information are available at the website below.