The organic composition of produced water samples from coalbed natural gas (CBNG) wells in the Powder River Basin, WY, sampled in 2001 and 2002 are reported as part of a larger study of the potential health and environmental effects of organic compounds derived from coal. The quality of CBNG produced waters is a potential environmental concern and disposal problem for CBNG producers, and no previous studies of organic compounds in CBNG produced water have been published. Organic compounds identified in the produced water samples included: phenols, biphenyls, N-, O-, and S-containing heterocyclic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aromatic amines, various non-aromatic compounds, and phthalates. Many of the identified organic compounds (phenols, heterocyclic compounds, PAHs) are probably coal-derived. PAHs represented the group of organic compounds most commonly observed. Concentrations of total PAHs ranged up to 23 ??g/L. Concentrations of individual compounds ranged from about 18 to <0.01 ??g/L. Temporal variability of organic compound concentrations was documented, as two wells with relatively high organic compound contents in produced water in 2001 had much lower concentrations in 2002. In many areas, including the PRB, coal strata provide aquifers for drinking water wells. Organic compounds observed in produced water are also likely present in drinking water supplied from wells in the coal. Some of the organic compounds identified in the produced water samples are potentially toxic, but at the levels measured in these samples are unlikely to have acute health effects. The human health effects of low-level, chronic exposure to coal-derived organic compounds in drinking water are currently unknown. Continuing studies will evaluate possible toxic effects from low level, chronic exposure to coal-derived organic compounds in drinking water supplies.
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Organic compounds in produced waters from coalbed natural gas wells in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming, USA