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Installation starts next month on Pavillion cisterns

Sep 22, 2013 - By Eric Blom Staff Writer

Construction of cisterns and a loading station to provide safe drinking water for residents east of Pavillion is set to start in October.

The state-funded project chose the Town of Pavillion as the water source and location of the filling site, officials announced Sept. 18.

In 2012, the Wyoming Legisla-ture appropriated $750,000 to build cisterns for residents living near the Pavillion oil and gas field and affected by poor quality drinking water containing potentially harmful substances.

The appropriation also would pay for a water loading station.

Engineer Jim Gores, president of James Gores and Associates, said his company would open bids to construct the 20 phase-one cisterns and the loading station on Sept. 27, and construction would start in October.

"It's our hope we would have all those cisterns installed before winter weather, but nobody can guarantee that," Gores said.

Town water is fine

The Wyoming Water Commis-sion decided Pavillion could be the source of water for the residents using cisterns. The town's municipal water supply is not contaminated. The affected wells are not in the town limits.

"The determination has been made that the community can provide the water of both sufficient quality and quantity (of water)," Jeremiah Rieman, Gov. Matt Mead's natural resource policy adviser said in a Sept. 18 conference call with residents.

Who will pay for water?

The infrastructure piece of the plan is on track, but bringing the water from the loading station to cisterns still an issue. The Legislature's funding did not include delivery costs.

"That was always understood to be the responsibility of the residents," Rieman said.

The Pavillion Town Council is considering buying or renting a water delivery truck. Purchasing such a vehicle would cost $50,000 to $100,000, Rieman said.

Funds would have to come from the town's own money or grants.

Licensing the operation is also an issue. Hauling water would require a permit, and the town could have to obtain one to distribute water outside the area of its existing permit from the State Engineer's Office.

Participants

About 77 percent of affected residents have registered with the cistern project. State officials believe 35 residents live near the oil and gas filed, and 27 have signed up to receive a cistern, Rieman said.

The project's budget is still strong because the Legislature plan counted on building reservoirs for all 35 residents, Rieman said.

The first phase of registration is closed but saw 20 people request a cistern. Seven residents have signed up in the second phase, which is still open

The state does not plan to close the second phase soon but will announce the end of that phase publicly before it ceases, Rieman said.

Clarey said the phase-two cisterns would be built in 2014.

Contamination source

The plan to resolve the water contamination issue comes as the source of the pollution remains under investigation. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency released a study linking hydraulic fracturing to groundwater contamination.

In June 2013, the federal agency dropped a plan to have its report peer-reviewed and turned the investigation over to the state. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Quality plan to reexamine previously collected date on water and oil wells in the Pavillion field and issue a report by Sept. 30, 2014.

The move came after Encana Oil and Gas, which operates many of the gas wells in the Pavillion field, donated $1.5 million to the state for its investigation.

State study

Residents on the conference call asked how the WOGCC and DEQ study was progressing.

An initial step was for the DEQ to collect data about 14 water wells near the Pavillion field from other agencies including the State Engineer's Office, WOGCC, EPA, U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management.

"We have received all of that information," Rieman said.

Encana and the EPA are to recommend outside experts to assist with the state's study, but they have not done so yet.

The state also hopes to gain access to data on oil and gas wells from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.

"We may have at least one of those approvals next week and hope to have the other one before too long," Rieman said.

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