The Pavillion area has been drilled extensively for natural gas over the last two decades and is home to hundreds of gas wells. Residents have alleged for nearly a decade that the drilling — and hydraulic fracturing in particular — has caused their water to turn black and smell like gasoline. Some residents say they suffer neurological impairment, loss of smell, and nerve pain they associate with exposure to pollutants.
The gas industry — led by the Canadian company EnCana, which owns the wells in Pavillion — has denied that its activities are responsible for the contamination. EnCana has, however, supplied drinking water to residents.
The information released yesterday by the EPA was limited to raw sampling data: The agency did not interpret the findings or make any attempt to identify the source of the pollution. From the start of its investigation, the EPA has been careful to consider all possible causes of the contamination and to distance its inquiry from the controversy around hydraulic fracturing.
Still, the chemical compounds the EPA detected are consistent with those produced from drilling processes, including one — a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) — widely used in the process of hydraulic fracturing. The agency said it had not found contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.