Day 4 – Pavillion, Wyoming

Day 4 – Pavillion, Wyoming by maxphillips, July 27, 2012, Jeremy Buckingham MLC
Without any say in the matter he now finds himself surrounded by a gas field operated by gas company Encana. … The health of his family and neighbours has been impacted and he now has bottled water delivered by the gas company because his well water has been designated as not safe for drinking or cooking. … The gas being targeted by Encana is tight sands. … The tight sands are fracked hard and often at the start of production. … While the bottled water delivered by Encana provides for drinking and cooking water, his family is forced to shower in their polluted well water. He says if you get it in your eyes while showering it burns like getting shampoo in your eye and it leaves you skin feeling dry and cracked. … When Jeff’s well water went bad Encana installed a reverse osmosis system. Jeff wouldn’t drink the water even after that but his wife did. She now suffers debilitating neuropath which took many expensive trips to doctors in Denver to diagnose. Jeff believes that because the RO plant can’t remove some of the chemicals from the fracking fluids including glycols that the system essentially concentrates the chemicals. He told us it take 5 gallons through the system to make one gallon. … I asked him what happens to the brine. He told me it goes into his seep away septic system and back into the ground under his property. I am gobsmacked. In Australia that sort of contamination would need to be taken away to a registered waste management site. [Here] it is left to filter back down into the ‘no longer drinkable’ aquifers. Jeff of course is left to fit the $200 a month additional electricity bill to run the RO plant. Justice clearly doesn’t live in Wyoming. … There are only about 200 wells in the Pavilion area. In the scheme of US unconventional gas, it is a drop in the ocean. But the damage caused by one company to an entire community with only a small gas field is almost unimaginable. As much as I am no fan of the regulatory environment in Australia, my gut feeling was that the impact on the lives of the people of Pavilion would never be allowed to happen in NSW. The community and government would not allow it. I say this to Drew Hutton from Lock the Gate who is travelling with me and he just shakes his head and responds, but it is happening right now in Queensland. The same symptoms, the same issues, the same response from the company and the Government. My hopes for NSW faded further when the day after our visit to Pavilion we see media reports that the O’Farrell Government plans to allow major coal and gas projects to be exempted from the need for an aquifer interference licence under their new aquifer interference policy. Could we be so stupid to make the same mistakes in Australia?

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