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By Karla Pomeroy

Possible 'contaminants' to Boysen cause concern

HSC agencies seek comment extension from Wyo. DEQ


April 4, 2019

THERMOPOLIS — Concerned Thermopolis resident and former Hot Springs County planner Lee Campbell sought support from local officials to get comments extended for a proposed Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality permit.

Campbell said when he read a story regarding the proposed renewal by Aethon Energy Operating LLC for Permit Number WY0002062, he couldn’t believe it.

“The project needs to go ahead, but it’s a question of water treatment and how you minimize the environmental damage,” Campbell said.

According to the story by Angus M. Thuermer Jr., the permit would authorize operators of the Moneta Divide oil and gas field, which is expected to expand to 4,250 wells, to discharge 8.27 million gallons a day of “produced water” from the field. Some 25-acre feet a day could flow from the wells north of Shoshoni into Alkali and Badwater creeks that would carry the contaminants 40 miles downstream to Boysen Reservoir to be diluted.

Operators led by Aethon Energy would be permitted to discharge up to 2,161 tons a month of total dissolved solids in the flow, including more than 1,000 tons each of sodium and sulfate. Those flows would mix with purer water in the reservoir, according to the draft permit. The diluted stream would then be released into the Wind River below the Boysen Dam just above Wind River Canyon, a 12-mile reach with Wyoming’s highest water quality designation — Class 1.

Campbell said in an interview Monday, “The Wind River Canyon is a Class 1 designation where no degradation is allowed. The Town of Thermopolis depends on that. We get our water from the river.”

He said he also has concerns about the increased concentration of pollutants making their way to irrigated fields.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council and Powder River Basin Resource Council has requested a 60-day extension of the comment period.

Campbell said he attended the Hot Springs County commissioners meeting Tuesday and they had a letter prepared to seek an extension and informational meetings. He found the same thing when he attended the town council meeting.

The Town of Thermopolis is seeking a 120-day extenstion to the comment period, noting that they were just now hearing about a 30-day comment period that ends April 17.

“The bottom line is we don’t know enough to comment,” Campbell said.

“The public has a right to know what’s being proposed. Right now there have been no public comment or public information meetings.”

Regarding protecting Thermopolis’ water source, Campbell said, “Our protection in Thermopolis is the fact that the Wind River Canyon is Class 1 that no degradation is allowed. We only have one chance to get it right.”

According to the letter from the WOC and Powder River Basin Resource Council to Kevin Frederick, DEQ administrator, “We are writing on behalf of our respective memberships to request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the above-referenced permit renewal. In addition, given the growing public interest in this matter and potential impacts to recreation and aquatic uses, as well as to downstream communities and irrigators, we request that the Water Quality Division schedule public meetings and/or hearings in the affected communities including Lander, Riverton, Thermopolis, Worland, along with Wind River Reservation communities.

“Aethon’s proposal to expand the Moneta Divide oil and natural gas development project by adding 4,250 wells would substantially increase the volume of produced water entering Boysen Reservoir and the Wind River below the dam, a DEQ Class 1 surface water. According to information provided in the DEQ/WQD’s Statement of Basis, the “renewed” permit would increase the maximum allowable discharge volume of produced water to 8.27 million gallons per day and would authorize the discharge of 2,161 tons/month of total dissolved solids (TDS), along with 719 tons/month of chloride into Boysen Reservoir.

“As noted above, these and other pollutants discharged from this facility would enter Boysen Reservoir, a popular public recreation area and main feature of Boysen State Park and the Wind River, an outstanding cold water fishery whose whitewater rapids are enjoyed by throngs of visitors each summer.

“We have reason to believe that the discharge may also include flow back water containing chemicals utilized in drilling and well completion activities, yet the proposed permit contains no information regarding the potential presence of these chemicals in the waste stream nor does it discuss pollution controls that should be implemented to minimize the adverse effects of such chemicals, some of which may include known endocrine disrupters.

“Due to the complexities of this permit and the potential for significant environmental and public health and safety impacts, the standard 30-day comment period ordinarily provided by DEQ does not allow sufficient time for members of the public to perform a careful and thorough review of this complex permit and associated documents and reports. For these reasons, we respectfully request a 60-day extension of the comment period. We believe an extension of this duration is both reasonable and appropriate, particularly in light of the fact that this permit (and/or various iterations) has been under internal agency review for at least a year, if not longer. As noted above, we also request that you schedule public meetings/hearings in the affected communities so that interested members of the public can learn more about the implications of this permit.”

Dan Helig of the WOC informed Campbell via email that Frederick should make a decision regarding the extension by Friday, April 5.

Public comments are being sought by April 17. According to the story, another public comment period will begin after the draft environmental impact study is released.


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