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Pay for the truck

Sep 25, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Even as investigations continue, some parties ought to cover costs for the Pavillion water truck

By now, feelings are deeply ingrained in the case of contaminated water east of Pavillion and who, or what, is responsible for it.

It is more than doubtful at this point whether anyone's position on that question can or will ever be changed.

At the heart of it all is the general acknowledgment that the household water supply for dozens of property owners in the area is not fit to drink, to bathe in, or to use for household laundry.

That may be as close to agreement as can be achieved in this case, which has stretched on for years.

It is upon that core of common ground that a remedy to many symptoms of the problem is about to be implemented.

A large-scale water storage system intended to provide satisfactory water for the property owners affected is going to be built. Bids for the big water containers, called cisterns, and the loading station where water can be transferred to the property owners are being accepted this month, and the engineering firm hired to see that the system is installed intends to get started while the weather permits this fall.

The underlying disagreement will not be removed via water truck or backyard tank. What can be addressed, however, is the necessity of clean drinking and washing water for residents who have been living from bottle to bottle for a long time now.

Once the cisterns are in place, a basic measure of convenience that the property owners have not experienced for years will be restored. And that is something.

It does not answer the ultimate question about the groundwater. It does not assign responsibility officially. It does not compensate the aggrieved in a way that a court order might. It does not absolve anyone, nor does it blame anyone.

But it is something. And in the complicated, often frustrating reality of civilized existence, something is better than nothing.

One specific problem remains in the cistern plan. Cisterns are to be installed, and a loading station for the transfer of water is to be placed. The source of money for those things has been located and agreed upon. But the huge detail of who will pay for the water truck to haul water to the loading station has yet to be resolved.

There may be a worry that agreeing to pay for that element of the system could portray the payer as a responsible or even a guilty party in the process. A similar concern may well affect property owners, some of whom have been reluctant to accept the cistern proposal because they later might be said to have accepted a permanent solution that has legal standing, thereby surrendering future opportunity for recompense.

At this point, the best idea might be for the state of Wyoming and Encana, the natural gas exploration giant in the region, to accept joint financial responsibility for the truck necessary to begin the actual water delivery process.

In so doing, the state, the company, and the property holders who will use the cisterns could agree mutually that putting the cistern plan into operation does not preclude further investigation or action that someday might produce a definitive conclusion about responsibility and redress.

An uncomfortable truth about the Pavillion water crisis is that no one ever may find complete satisfaction or peace of mind about the whys and wherefores of the bad water.

In the meantime, the entities that have the money can agree to do what is necessary so that these families can draw a clean bath and brew a decent cup of coffee again.

Find a way to pay for the truck and bring the water. There will be time enough for more arguing after that. There always is.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Tuesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office at 3:30 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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