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Pavillion-area water users to hear options

May 30, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

State officials are inviting discussion in the Pavillion area concerning proposals to deliver clean drinking water to residents several miles east of town affected by possible contamination from energy industry activity.

Representatives of Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Water Development Office are hosting a public meeting from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at Wind River High School in Pavillion.

The meeting will focus on options to deliver clean water listed in a final report released last October that Riverton engineering firm James Gores & Associates developed for the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

Discussion will include the Wyoming Legislature's $750,000 appropriation approved earlier this year and signed by Mead to fund the installation of cisterns at homes affected by poor water quality.

"Basically we're going to run down the options," Mike Purcell, director of Wyoming Water Development Office, said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning.

"The options have been the subject of previous meetings so it's going to be more or less a summary. Then we will review the legislation that provided $750,000 for the installation of cisterns, and then we will offer our initial thoughts for public comment how to implement that appropriation," Purcell said.

Cistern proposal

He expects Jerimiah Rieman, the governor's natural resource policy adviser, to address the cistern issue and legislation.

"There will be some discussion as to how we concluded that cisterns was the preferred option," Purcell said.

The state support came at the urging of Mead who is working to provide clean water to homes several miles east of Pavillion as investigation continues into possible contamination.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to investigate possible groundwater contamination resulting from the practice of gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing.

Groups continue to debate the agency's study released in December that cited a likely link between pollutants and the method of injecting liquid at high pressure into wells to release natural gas deposits.

Mead on March 6 signed legislation that received final approval by state lawmakers earlier that month to allocate $750,000 in funding for installing cisterns. The omnibus water construction bill, titled Senate File 47, includes the Pavillion east supply project that will also include a water loading station.

Cisterns were one of five options included in the report for the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

Options included constructing a piped system utilizing the Town of Pavillion's water supply costing each home $715 a month, a treatment system for each residence's drinking well at a price of $175 a month or a cistern costing $250 a month, according to the report.

Other options included a water treatment plant and central infrastructure system for homes that would cost each household $1,225 or a well source central system at a cost of $680 per month.

The water study used a matrix system for ranking the options that listed the cistern proposal as the best alternative. The matrix considered factors including water quality, reliability, construction and maintenance costs, household bills and EPA compliance.

The cistern proposal ranked the best score with a 21 out of a possible 55. The Pavillion source central water system had a score of 25 followed by the well source central system at 30, private treatment at each home at 34 and the water treatment plant in last at 49.

Depending on the comments received during Thursday's meeting, state officials should have a better plan of finding a solution for delivering clean drinking water to affected homes in the area.

Purcell estimated installation of cisterns could take between six months and a year if affected residents want them.

"It depends how many are interested" in installing cisterns at their homes, Purcell said. "There will have to be designs and construction bids because this is state funding."

Water delivery would be the responsibility of the residents using the cisterns.

"That's right, unless there are other contributors to the program. At this point in time we're just discussing what the state can do," Purcell said.

"We'll talk about what the state can do under the statute," he added. "That's the funding statute, the one that provides the $750,000."

The money appropriated by the Legislature for cisterns could not fund other options without lawmakers giving approval for a different project, Purcell said.

"I just hope there's good attendance and everybody feels comfortable commenting," he said about the meeting.

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