Found Contaminants Spur Fracking Debate

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS - The Environmental Protection Agency now believes they have evidence that hydraulic fracturing causes groundwater contamination.

In a draft report released earlier this month, the EPA traveled to Pavillion, Wyoming and took groundwater samples starting back in March of 2009 and ending in April of 2011.

In those samples, they said they found methane and hydrocarbons among other harmful chemicals.

They're blaming fracking for it.

Pavillion resident Louis Meeks said these contaminants have made his family suffer.

"Me and my wife both have breathing problems. We never did have asthma or nothing in our life," Meeks said. "For a while there, I was getting sores from it on my body. My wife, one time, she couldn't find out what was burning her eyes, and what she was doing was washing her contacts in this water."

Canadian-based natural gas producer, Encana, is being blamed for the contamination.

Meeks said Encana finished building a well 500 feet from his home back in 2004, and within a few months, his water started to stink.

Meeks said Encana took samples for eight months before concluding it wasn't their fault.

NewsWest 9 wanted to find out if fracking could cause the same fate here.

In a statement sent to us, The Railroad Commission of Texas, an oil-regulatory agency, said: "There have been no cases of groundwater contamination in Texas linked to the practice of hydraulic fracturing."

The commission told NewsWest 9 the same when we investigated back in November.

Oil experts in the Basin said fracking is not to blame for that contamination and that there's no risk for contamination here.

"It has not been proven," Midland Oil and Gas Consultant, Morris Burns. "It's just one isolated case in the state of Wyoming. There's a lot of gas production there and gas can get into underground aquifers naturally."

But Meeks said this contamination was due to company negligence with their fracking, not nature.

"That's not true," he said. "We had a good well here when I bought this 36 years ago. They sampled this water twice, and all these wells that went bad is when Encana bought this and amped up the drilling."

The battle is far from over.

On Tuesday, The Railroad Commission of Texas will be deciding the rules that will go into an hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure rule.

The rule was passed by the Texas Legislation earlier this year, and it will require Texas oil and gas operators to disclose all chemical ingredients and water volumes that go into their fracking.

They're proposing all that disclosure go to one national website: http://fracfocus.org/