The Downside of Clean Natural Gas: Contaminated Water

gas pipeline odorant facility

Natural gas is undoubtedly a practical source of electricity generation; it’s plentiful, burns relatively clean, and produces minimal carbon dioxide. All good things–unless you happen to live near a drilling site with irresponsible owners. ProPublica reports that residents of Pavillion, Wyoming are being told not to drink their water and to even use ventilation when showering so as to avoid an explosion. Because apparently, they’re all lathering up with benzene, phenols, metals, naphthalene, and methane.

Test results from the EPA are pretty ugly: oil compounds were found in 89% of all drinking wells that were tested in the area, methane was found in 7 wells (out of 23) and 2-butoxyethanol phosphate (a fire retardant and plasticizer) was found in 11 of the wells.

The EPA claims that it doesn’t know the cause of the contamination, but EnCana, the oil and gas company responsible for most of the wells in the area, says it will pay for the cost of residents’ drinking water–even though it won’t admit to having anything to do with the contamination.

This is, of course, something that could happen at any drilling site. But it’s a sobering reminder that natural gas is not a sustainable source of energy, and it can be dangerous, to boot.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.