- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

CASPER, Wyoming (AP) - Wyoming environmental officials say fracking is unlikely to have contaminated drinking water east of Pavillion, disputing a report from the federal government that initially blamed fracking for tainting the water.

A report released Friday as part of a report by the state Department of Environmental Quality says samples taken from 13 water wells in 2014 detected high levels of naturally occurring pollution.

About four years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking fracking to polluted water outside this tiny central Wyoming community.

Although fracking was ruled out as a likely source of contamination, the state report did not completely rule out contamination from oil and gas operations. Regulators said more research is needed to determine if disposal pits or equipment could have leaked into the groundwater.

Regulators also said geology could also play a role in contaminating the water, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (http://tinyurl.com/gtn7bzt).

Some residents started reporting problems with their water about 15 years ago. They got frustrated and took their complaints to the EPA.

The federal agency delivered a preliminary conclusion that fracking was to blame, but quickly backed off after officials asked for proof.

Wyoming regulators once considered the possibility of drilling monitoring wells, but decided they would be too expensive and more investigation was needed, the newspaper reported.

Jeff Locker, a Pavillion landowner who is suing Encana, blaming drilling pollution for harming his wife’s health, said he had little confidence in the state’s investigation. He said evidence of contamination was ignored or mishandled.

Encana officials said the state report was conclusive.

“No evidence suggests a link was found between hydraulic fracturing operations in the field and the reported palatability concerns,” Encana spokesman Doug Hock wrote in an email.

The public will now have 90 days to comment on the draft findings. Next steps could include installation of groundwater monitoring wells.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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