Wyoming tests still detect benzene
Albany Time Union | Mead Gruver
September 26, 2012
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — New groundwater testing in Wyoming shows lower levels of the carcinogen benzene than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported when it linked contaminants in two water wells to hydraulic fracturing, but only one well was tested this time.
Benzene is a hydrocarbon commonly associated with oil and gas development. Last year's testing by the EPA showed benzene at almost 50 times the recommended EPA limit. The new data released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey show benzene at 3 percent of the recommended EPA limit.
This year's tests and the previous tests aren't an apples-to-apples comparison, however. Researchers this time around decided they couldn't get enough water for a reliable sample from one of the wells the EPA drilled to test for pollution near the rural community of Pavillion.
That low-flowing well had the very high benzene level. In the other well — the one researchers relied on for this year's testing — any amount of benzene in the groundwater tested was too small to be detected last year.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the state would need more time to review the data gathered in collaboration with the USGS, Wyoming, the EPA and two American Indian tribes.
Also Wednesday, Pennsylvania regulators aren't inspecting tens of thousands of oil and gas wells even once a year, a new report says. But state officials say they're inspecting most new wells in the Marcellus Shale region, which is the right place to focus.
The report issued Tuesday by Earthworks, a Washington D.C. nonprofit, found that more than 66,000 active wells weren't inspected by the federal government last year.