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Residents sign up for water cisterns outside Pavillion

Aug 31, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

More than a dozen applicants have expressed interest in getting cisterns at their homes east of Pavillion.

"The preliminary number is 15," said Keith Guille, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality spokesman. "Obviously this is still in the beginning stages. We will still need to work out the details of the agreement."

Eligible homeowners within the designated area near the Pavillion gas field had until Aug. 15 to enlist in the state-funded cistern program.

Some properties have poor groundwater quality that may be connected to nearby energy development.

The agency is managing the project. The $750,000 in funding for the project, which was appropriated by the state Legislature earlier this year, is coming from the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

Guille said project officials did not have an exact cost for installing each cistern.

"The schedule is this fall they'll start working on a design, and then in the spring they'll start working on the project (installation)," he said.

Gov. Matt Mead's administration supports the cistern program as a way to provide clean drinking water to affected homes while an investigation continues into whether hydraulic fracturing is causing contamination.

A December report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited a likely link between water contamination and fracking, a technique that involves injecting various chemicals and substances into the ground at high pressure to force gas out.

Officials close to the investigation expect a peer-review panel to convene in October to review data collected. The group's work could lead to a conclusion about the contamination's source.

The designated area has about 35 wells identified, while homeowners outside of the boundary who have water wells that test positive for hydrocarbons are also eligible to receive a cistern.

Participants will get a cistern system installed at their homes, but they must pay for their own cost of water delivery, which could hit $160 or more a month.

Participants in the program must also allow the Department of Environmental Quality to access their existing water wells for monitoring and testing during the ongoing investigation.

Residents who use the state-funded cisterns will be able to get water from the Town of Pavillion's well infrastructure if they choose.

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