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Wastewater Disposal from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Degrades Stream Quality…

A gas industry's wastewater disposal site (Wittorf Z1, Germany)

A gas industry’s wastewater disposal site (Wittorf Z1, Germany) (Symbol photo)

This study is, up to now, the second investigation which turned up direct negative impacts of underground disposal of wastewaters from unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production on surface waters in West Virginia.
Although the hydrologic pathways could not be assessed, the study’s findings show that activities at the disposal facility are impacting a nearby stream and altering the biogeochemistry of nearby ecosystems.

Key findings:

  • Elevated specific conductance (416 µS/cm) and Na, Cl, Ba, Br, Sr and Li concentrations, compared to upstream, background waters (conductivity, 74 µS/cm), were detected.
  • Elevated TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), a marker of UOG wastewater, provided an early indication of impacts in the stream.
  • Wastewater inputs were also evident in stream water adjacent to the disposal facility.
  • Sediments downstream from the facility were enriched in Ra and had high bioavailable Fe(III) concentrations relative to upstream sediments.
  • Microbial communities in downstream sediments had lower diversity and shifts in composition.

    Bibliography:
    Akob DM, Mumford AC, Orem WH, Engle MA, Klinges JG, Kent DB, Cozzarelli IM
    Wastewater Disposal from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Degrades Stream Quality at a West Virginia Injection Facility
    Environ Sci Technol. 2016 May 9. [Epub ahead of print]
    PMID 27158829

    See also:
    U.S. Geological Survey, Evidence of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewater Found in Surface Waters near Underground Injection Site. USGS, May 9, 2016

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