October 31st, 2010
Don’t use water because it might catch fire or explode?
Here’s a story that is funny, but it’s also too bizarre, dangerous, and sad to really be funny. And is says mountains about life on American Indian reservations that the majority of Americans know nothing about; the poverty, lack of infrastructure, and the obstacles to living a safe and comfortable life.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, a rural community on the Wind River Indian Reservation, not to drink their water and to use fans and ventilation while bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion. EXPLOSION??
The EPA found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols, methane, and other contaminants in the groundwater and wells on the reservation.
“It’s a concern,” said Mitchel Cottenoir, acting tribal water engineer for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, whose tribal government in Fort Washakie is some 30 miles from Pavillion. “The Tribal Water Quality Commission is looking into it and is working closely with the EPA.”
Many of Pavillion’s residents blame hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used for nearly all of today’s natural gas extraction in which dangerous chemicals, mixed with millions of gallons of water and sand are injected at high pressure thousands of feet underground to create fissures in the rock and release the gas.
The study is the first undertaken by the EPA, but it is made harder because gas companies can conceal the chemicals used in the process as trade secrets. The gas company that owns most of the wells near Pavillion is paying part of the cost of supplying drinking water to residents, while not accepting responsibility for the contamination.
The EPA is pressuring energy companies to provide information about the chemicals used in fracking. As it is now the agency doesn’t know which chemicals to test groundwater for.
The oil and gas industry argues that costs from federal regulation would cripple their business, and that state regulations are already strong. A few states have regulations, but they vary.
Get the full story at Indian Country Today.