Wastewater disposal from unconventional oil and gas development degrades stream quality at a West Virginia injection facility

Environmental Science & Technology
By: , and 

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Abstract

The development of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) resources has rapidly increased in recent years; however, the environmental impacts and risks are poorly understood. A single well can generate millions of liters of wastewater, representing a mixture of formation brine and injected hydraulic fracturing fluids. One of the most common methods for wastewater disposal is underground injection; we are assessing potential risks of this method through an intensive, interdisciplinary study at an injection disposal facility in West Virginia. In June 2014, waters collected downstream from the site had elevated specific conductance (416 μS/cm) and Na, Cl, Ba, Br, Sr, and Li concentrations, compared to upstream, background waters (conductivity, 74 μS/cm). Elevated TDS, a marker of UOG wastewater, provided an early indication of impacts in the stream. Wastewater inputs are also evident by changes in 87Sr/86Sr in streamwater 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. Although the hydrologic pathways were not able to be assessed, these data provide evidence demonstrating that activities at the disposal facility are impacting a nearby stream and altering the biogeochemistry of nearby ecosystems.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Wastewater disposal from unconventional oil and gas development degrades stream quality at a West Virginia injection facility
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/acs.est.6b00428
Volume 50
Issue 11
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Chemical Society
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 9 p.
First page 5517
Last page 5525
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N