Many people vastly underestimate the probability that unwanted contaminants could somehow get into their water supply. Not only does it stand to reason that drinking water contamination could occur, it stands to reason that more people need to face the facts that it already has occurred in a number of places all around the world.
In this case, the USEPA has discovered that it has reason to take a closer look at the quality of water in a region of Colorado. Folks interested in the effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the environment may want to keep an eye on this story as it develops.
(CNN) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigating drinking water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, found benzene and methane in wells and in groundwater, agency officials said.
At a community meeting with well owners, EPA officials revealed Tuesday they found low levels of petroleum compounds in 17 of 19 drinking water wells sampled, and that nearby shallow groundwater was contaminated with high levels of petroleum compounds such as benzene, according to the report.
The affected well owners were advised not to drink the water at the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and told to use alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, agency officials said.
Meanwhile, the EPA is working with various government partners and EnCana, a natural gas company, to provide affected residents with water and to address potential sources of the contamination, agency officials said.
The study included sampling 21 domestic wells within the area of concern, two municipal wells, plus sediment and water from a nearby creek. The EPA also sampled groundwater and soil from pit remediation sites, and produced water and condensate from five production wells operated by the primary natural gas operator in the area, agency officials said.
No health concerns were found related to inhalation exposure to chemicals while showering or using evaporative coolers, agency officials said.
The EPA has not reached any conclusions about the sources of chemical compounds found in drinking water wells, including hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial process used to extract natural gas from underground, agency officials said.
Officials are uncertain if the contaminated shallow groundwater will migrate to the drinking water aquifer, according to the report.
In spring 2008, residents of Pavillion — concerned about the quality of their drinking water — contacted the EPA in Denver, Colorado. The agency sampled 39 individual wells (37 residential wells and two municipal wells) in March 2009 and found nitrate, arsenic and methane gas. The agency conducted the second sampling in January 2010.( source )
These findings may make more people think twice about letting gas companies drill natural gas in their area… even though no conclusive proof has come to light that ‘fracking’ has contributed to the contamination of this area’s water supply.
Should more people test their well water?
Whether you live in an area whose water supply could potentially become affected by ‘fracking’ or any other industrial process or not, well owners should test the water coming out of their wells on a regular basis.
Any natural that causes a shift in the water table can potentially cause unwanted, and usually unexpected, contaminants to enter the water supply. For example: Both heavy amounts of rain and long periods without rain can result in changes to the quality of water going into the aquifer… which means the quality of water drawn from the aquifer by wells will also change.
What are common well water contaminants?
Every area has different concerns, but as a general rule most well owners will, at the very least, test for contaminants such as arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, iron, nitrates & nitrites, and bacteria.
A properly constructed and maintained household-supply well will provide you with many years of quality service. The National Ground Water Association recommends routine annual maintenance checks to ensure the proper operation of the well and prolong its years of service, as well as monitor the water quality. ( source )