Mountain States

Report: Oil, Natural Gas Development Not Responsible for Pavillion’s Naturally Occurring Water Issues

Oil and natural gas development is not responsible for groundwater issues in Pavillion, according to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality report, Final Pavilion, Wyoming Gas Field Domestic Water Wells Report on Recommendations for Further Investigation (Final Report), released this week. This latest report represents the final chapter of the WDEQ’s more than six year-long investigation and its previous 2016 landmark report:

“Data collected and evaluated as part of this 2019 Final Report confirm the conclusions drawn in the WDEQ 2016 Final Report. … The investigation into palatability issues is complete and no additional investigations are warranted at this time.”

Here are the top three things to know from WDEQ’s analysis of more than 11,000 water samples in its 2016 report and an additional 3,650-plus in the Final Report:

Fact #1: Methane in domestic water wells is not from oil and natural gas development.

Further, after years of investigating groundwater in the region, WDEQ determined that methane detected in domestic water wells was not from oil and natural gas development:

“Gas in the upper Wind River Formation appears to have originated mainly from upward migration from deeper commercial gas-bearing zones and evidence suggests that upward gas seepage (or gas charging of shallow sands) was happening naturally before gas well development . . .[t]he general chemical characteristics (major cations and anions) of the groundwater from the water-supply wells . . . are consistent with those reported for the Wind River Formation across the Wind River Basin.” (emphasis added)

Fact #2: Inorganic compounds detected above drinking water standards are naturally occurring.

Analysis of samples taken from 13 water wells in 2014, 2017, and 2018, found:

“Inorganic compounds that were found over applicable drinking water standards are generally associated with naturally occurring salts, metals and radionuclides.”

“[N]o organic compounds were identified at concentrations exceeding applicable drinking water standards.” (emphasis added)

Fact #3: Fracking fluid did not migrate into the water.

In a blow to environmental activists who have spent years trying to push the narrative that fracking was the cause of groundwater issues in the community, WDEQ clearly dispels this myth:

“Evidence does not indicate that hydraulic fracturing fluids have risen to shallow depths utilized by water-supply wells. Also, based on an evaluation of hydraulic fracturing history, and methods used in the Pavillion Gas Field, it is unlikely that hydraulic fracturing has caused any impacts to the water-supply wells.” (emphasis added)


Activists have tried for years to keep the Pavillion narrative alive as an example of oil and natural gas contamination. But numerous investigations from state and federal regulators spanning several years continue to show these claims lack merit.

WDEQ’s Final Report further solidifies what the agency said in 2016: Oil and natural gas activities are not responsible for groundwater quality in Pavillion. And with this, it appears the book is finally closed on the palatability investigation in the region.

For more information on Pavillion, click here

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