A program to provide clean water to residents of Pavillion will get underway in the next week. The town has problems with contaminated well water, which some attribute to nearby oil and gas development. An investigation into the source of the contamination is ongoing, but the governor’s natural resources policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says the state felt it had a responsibility to take action -- not only for residents’ health, but also their assets.
“There are citizens up there that I think even today, have had their property values zeroed out," Rieman says. "But because of the cistern program, we’ve now seen that change.”
The state installed 19 cisterns over the winter and plans to install 16 more this summer. Jon Martin is president of the association that’s coordinating distribution of the water and one of the residents who was worried about his property values. He says his well is perfectly fine, but that he had a cistern installed anyways.
“You know, it’s business," Martin says. "I’ve got a lot of money sitting here on this little farm and I’m going to protect it. It’s that simple.”
Residents will receive up to 48,000 gallons of free water a year through a $400,000 grant from Encana Oil & Gas. It's expected to last six to eight years. The water is being drawn from the town’s municipal supply and trucked to homes by a contractor.