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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Both sides in a federal lawsuit over potentially tainted groundwater in the Pavillion area have agreed to suspend certain proceedings in the case pending the upcoming release of a state report on pollution testing of water wells.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality initially planned to release a report late last year on testing of domestic water wells in the area. Now the agency plans to complete a draft late this month and release the report to the public in early July.
Last year, Jeff and Rhonda Locker sued Denver-based Encana Oil and Gas USA, alleging gas development near their property contaminated their groundwater. The Lockers sued in state court, but Encana successfully got the case moved to the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.
Encana denies the allegations.
Late last month, both sides agreed to temporarily hold off on designating and hearing from experts pending the release of the DEQ report. U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl had not ruled on the motion as of Wednesday, according to available records.
Last year, a consultant for the department sampled water from 13 domestic water wells near Pavillion. The consultant in turn hired a contractor to verify the data quality, said Mark Thiesse, DEQ project director.
"Unfortunately that took way longer than we wanted it to," Thiesse said.
The state investigation follows one by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In late 2011, the EPA released a draft finding that theorized hydraulic fracturing — the practice of pumping water mixed with smaller volumes of fine sand and chemical products into wells to split open oil- and gas-bearing formations — contributed to groundwater pollution in the Pavillion area.
The EPA handed off its investigation to Wyoming officials in 2013 without opening its report to scientific peer review or otherwise finalizing it.
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