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Simple Techniques For Assessing Impacts Of Oil And Gas Operations On Federal Lands - A Field Evaluation At Big South Fork National River And Recreation Area, Scott County, Tennessee

Open-File Report 2000-499

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Abstract

Simple, cost-effective techniques are needed for land managers to assess the environmental impacts of oil and gas production activities on public lands so that sites may be prioritized for further, more formal assessment or remediation. These techniques should allow the field investigator to extend the assessment beyond the surface disturbances documented by simple observation and mapping using field-portable instruments and expendable materials that provide real-time data. The principal contaminants of current concern are hydrocarbons, produced water, and naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM). Field investigators can examine sites for the impacts of hydrocarbon releases using a photoionization detector (PID) and a soil auger. Volatile organic carbon (VOC) in soil gases in an open auger hole or in the head space of a bagged and gently warmed auger soil sample can be measured by the PID. This allows detection of hydrocarbon movement in the shallow subsurface away from areas of obvious oil-stained soils or oil in pits at a production site. Similarly, a field conductivity meter and chloride titration strips can be used to measure salts in water and soil samples at distances well beyond areas of surface salt scarring. Use of a soil auger allows detection of saline subsoils in areas where salts may be flushed from the surface soil layers. Finally, a microRmeter detects the presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in equipment and soils. NORM often goes undetected at many sites although regulations limiting NORM in equipment and soils are being promulgated in several States and are being considered by the USEPA. With each technique, background sampling should be done for comparison with impacted areas. The authors examined sites in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in November of 1999. A pit at one site at the edge of the flood plain of a small stream had received crude oil releases from a nearby tank. Auger holes down gradient from the pit showed the presence of anomalous concentrations of VOCs at depths of 3 feet for a distance of about 50 feet. PID readings at other sites showed 1) one reclaimed site where hydrocarbon biodegradation was incomplete; 2) one reclaimed site where biodegradation had left no traces of VOCS; and 3) two sites where traces of substantial offsite migration of hydrocarbons occurred. Produced water salts at one site have migrated many 100s of feet downvalley from the area of salt scarring and tree death adjacent to the pits. Naturally occurring radioactivity (NORM) at most sites was at background. One site showed anomalous radioactivity related to NORM in a small brine pit. Some of this NORM has moved downslope from the outlet pipe to the pit.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Simple Techniques For Assessing Impacts Of Oil And Gas Operations On Federal Lands - A Field Evaluation At Big South Fork National River And Recreation Area, Scott County, Tennessee
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2000-499
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2000
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
Description:
51 p.