Residents call for more investigations, better enforcement of state and federal water quality regulations
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A health survey from a town in a Wyoming natural gas patch is out, and the news is not good.
As many as 94 percent of the residents in the town of Pavilion and the surrounding area are reporting symptoms consistent with the effects of the chemicals pinpointed by the EPA in local drinking water wells. The EPA studied the area last year as part of a Superfund investigation.
The voluntary health survey was conducted by Wilma Subra on behalf of regional and community environmental groups. Subra is a chemist and MacArthur Genius award winner renown for her work with communities impacted by industrial contamination.
Symptoms include rashes, headaches, as well neurological disorders and cancers, according to a report released Tuesday by EARTHWORKS and the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
“People here are sick. Our water, air, soil, and our health are all connected, ” says John Fenton, Pavillion resident with a contaminated drinking water well. “Thanks to the EPA we will know what chemicals are in our water. Now we need to know the chemicals in our air, our homes and our bodies.”
Since the development of the oil and gas resources in the area, Pavillion residents have reported contamination and health impacts that they suspect are coming from Encana’s Pavillion/Muddy Ridge gas-field.
A significant survey finding also includes 81 percent of participants reporting respiratory ailments. This indicates that a primary pathway of human exposure to chemicals in the area may be occurring through air pathways, such as industrial releases and from showering or washing dishes with contaminated water.
Based on the survey, the landowners and groups are calling for regulators to identify the source of contamination, conduct residential and regional air-monitoring, and to implement medical monitoring in which residents with health impacts can receive blood and urine testing.
“We have spent thousands on doctors and tests,” says Jeff Locker, a Pavillion landowner with contaminated water. Locker and his wife have struggled with respiratory and neurological symptoms, constant nausea and headaches, and aggressive pre-cancerous growths. “It’s big profit over people’s health. Our health officials need to step forward.”
While Encana and regulators claim that the source of the water contamination has not been identified, oil and gas production is the only industrial activity in the area. The EPA is planning to release additional drinking water tests to the public on Aug. 31. The State of Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality is slated to place an air monitor in the Pavillion area in late September that will assess regional air quality.
“It’s critical that our agencies identify the source of the contamination and study human health,” said Subra. “We can’t adequately address health impacts without fully understanding the source of the contamination on both a cumulative and household level.” Subra insists that in addition to more water testing and regional air sampling, the community needs residential air sampling and medical monitoring.
Filed under: energy, Environment, gas drilling, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | energy, Environment, Natural gas, natural gas drilling Wyoming, Powder River Basin, Summit County News, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Wilma Subra