Friday, 16 January 2015 00:00

Scientists Discover Two New Pollutants In Fracking Waste

Written by  Emily Atkin | Think Progress
In this Feb. 17, 2012 file photo, effluent from the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant is discharged into the Niagara River near the American Falls in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The Niagara Falls City Council voted Monday, March 5, 2012 to ban the treatment of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. In this Feb. 17, 2012 file photo, effluent from the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant is discharged into the Niagara River near the American Falls in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The Niagara Falls City Council voted Monday, March 5, 2012 to ban the treatment of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. AP PHOTO/DAVID DUPREY, FILE

The primary waste product created by oil and gas drilling contains two types of potentially hazardous contaminants that have never before been associated with the industry, research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology on Wednesday revealed.

Duke University geochemistry professor Avner Vengosh and his team of scientists found that wastewater produced by both conventional and unconventional oil drillers contains high volumes of ammonium and iodide — chemicals that, when dissolved in water or mixed with other pollutants, can encourage the formation of toxins like carcinogenic disinfection byproducts and have negative impacts on aquatic life.

That’s a problem, the study said, because oil and gas industry wastewater is often discharged or spilled into streams and rivers that eventually flow into drinking water systems.

“We were not aware that they existed in oil and gas waste products,” Vengosh told ThinkProgress on Wednesday. “Until now, no one was aware — no one was monitoring for those contaminants.”

Both conventional and unconventional oil and gas development produce wastewater, which contains pollutants that can harm human health. The unconventional process of hydraulic fracturing, however, produces much more wastewater than its conventional counterpart (the process involves injecting thousands of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock). Nationwide, fracking produces an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater per year, according to an Environment America report.

How to dispose of that polluted water has been an issue. Some gets stored in artificial ponds, some is injected underground, and some is treated and put back into rivers. None are foolproof systems — untreated fracking wastewater has spilled into the environmentmultiple times from both injection wells and ponds, and treated wastewater has been found to be harmful for human consumption.

However it is disposed, Vengosh and his team said that their discovery of two new pollutants shows that the danger posed by fracking wastewater to human health and the environment is becoming more clear.

“The relatively high frequency of spills associated with the intensity of shale gas development and reports of an overall increase of the salinity in watersheds associated with hydraulic fracturing activities, combined with data presented in this study, suggest that the release of [oil and gas wastewater] to the environment is one of the major risks associated with the development of hydraulic fracturing,” the study reads. “Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of [oil and gas wastewater] to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.”

Or, in Vengosh’s own words: “The practice that we are allowing wastewater to be discharged in rivers and streams is unacceptable.”

To come to their conclusion, the Duke University team collected and analyzed 44 wastewater samples produced from conventional oil and gas wells in New York and Pennsylvania; 31 wastewater samples from fracked wells in Pennsylvania and Arkansas; and treated wastewater that was being directly discharged into streams, rivers, and surface waters at three disposal sites in Pennsylvania. They also analyzed water at sites where fracking wastewater had spilled in West Virginia.

Their discovery of ammonium and iodide was not the first time potentially harmful contaminants have been found in drilling wastewater. Back in September, Vengosh was part of a team that found halides — which are salts like bromide and chloride — in wastewater. Those too can promote the formation of toxic disinfection byproducts when disinfectants used in water treatment plants react them, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Vengosh doesn’t think the fracking process itself is responsible for ammonium and iodide in the wastewater. He noted that tests from both conventional and unconventional drilling sites contained the chemicals. That led him to believe that they were naturally occurring in the geological system — not originating from the chemicals that fracking companies use to stimulate wells.

But that doesn’t mean fracking should be off the hook for its contribution to harmful wastewater discharges into the environment, Vengosh said.

“We need to change the regulations and stop polluting the waterways in areas of both conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration,” he said, “but the problem becomes louder [for fracking] because of the increase in the volume of the wastewater.”

Original article on Think Progress

Read 3378 times

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • Sen. Graham Joins 2016 GOPers' Call For Social Security Cuts

    Lindsey Graham(R-SC) not only became the latest Republican to jump into the 2016 presidential race, he also became the latest Republican to signal strong support for deep Social Security cuts. "Washington's failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in jeopardy," Graham said during

    Read More
  • The Republican campaign to destroy the poor stoops to a new low

    The party of the rich is now doing everything in its power to make sure those without money live in misery Last week my colleague Simon Maloy caught us up with the latest on Kanses Gov. Sam Brownback’s famous Arthur Laffer “petri dish” experiment, in which he slashed taxes and government programs in order to

    Read More
  • The Cost of an Adjunct

    The plight of non-tenured professors is widely known, but what about the impact they have on the students they’re hired to instruct? Imagine meeting your English professor by the trunk of her car for office hours, where she doles out information like a taco vendor in a food truck. Or

    Read More
  • After Rand Paul’s Sort-of Filibuster, What’s Next for Surveillance Reform?

    While technically Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) stand against the NSA yesterday wasn't a filibuster, any time a member of Congress talks for over ten hours without a bathroom break, it's close enough in our book.

    Read More
  • As Patriot Act Expiration Looms, Critics Hope for Sunset on Mass Surveillance

    'Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.' With the fate of the USA Patriot Act still hanging in the balance late afternoon Friday—and lawmakers eager to leave Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day barbecues and

    Read More
  • Entitlements are Bankrupting America. But the Rich Keep Taking Them.

    Because of irresponsible reporting by conservative sources, many Americans have been led to believe that social programs are bankrupting our nation. The mainstream media fawningly concurs, with statements like this from USA Today: "The massive deficits...[and] chronic underfunding...are largely the result of Washington's habit of committing too much money to

    Read More
  • It’s time to make college debt free

    When I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990, students were graduating from college with an average of about $12,000 in debt. Today, the average student debt for undergraduates in Minnesota is more than $31,000 — the fifth-highest in the nation. 

    Read More
  • The 99% Isn’t Enough

    We can’t fight the rich without fighting our own privileges. Last night, I asked my mom if she’d heard ever heard the term, “We are the 99%.” After we spent a frustrating few minutes of her repeatedly asking, “But 99% of what?” she admitted that she’d heard tell of Occupy

    Read More
  • Why Don’t the American People Want to Tax the Rich? Oh Wait, They Do.

    Despite what the New York Times would have you believe, Americans have said over and over that they want the wealthy to pay more. The New York Times has a post by Neil Irwin headlined “Why Americans Don’t Want to Soak the Rich.” Irwin suggests a couple of different answers to this question, depending on your ideological point of view:

    Read More
  • 5 Ways It's Become a Crime to Be Poor in America, Punishable by Further Impoverishment

    New report details perverse policies that are driving more people into hopeless, inescapable poverty.

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

Featured News

  • Hague climate change judgement could inspire a global civil movement +

    Dutch ruling could trigger similar cases worldwide with citizens taking their governments to courts to make them act on climate Read More
  • Supreme Court Rejects Obamacare Lawsuit, Preserving Insurance For Millions +

    WASHINGTON -- The latest and possibly the last serious effort to cripple Obamacare through the courts has just failed. On Thursday, Read More
  • TPP Media March +

     Join our TPP Twitter Storm. Everyone with a Twitter account can participate. The Twitter storm begins on Tuesday at 9pm Read More
  • Why We 'Ordinary People' Should Oppose Fast Track of the TPP Right Up To the Final Vote in Congress +

    During his campaigning days back in 2008, President Obama promised to rewrite NAFTA. Even Hillary at the time modestly admitted that there were mistakes Read More
  • Left raises pressure on Pelosi to oppose Obama's fast-track +

    Liberal groups are upping their pressure this week on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take a stand against President Obama's Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
  • 32
  • 33
  • 34
  • 35
  • 36
  • 37
  • 38
  • 39
  • 40
  • 41
  • 42
  • 43

ESJ Calls

Featured Economic and Social Justice News

  • Sen. Graham Joins 2016 GOPers' Call For Social Security Cuts +

    Lindsey Graham(R-SC) not only became the latest Republican to jump into the 2016 presidential race, he also became the latest Read More
  • Populism Is Helping to Define and Build the Progressive Movement +

    While a self-serving and bought-off Conservative majority in Congress -- along with its DINO ("Democrat In Name, Only") enablers -- remains mired Read More
  • Bystander Who Filmed Horrifying Footage: 'Officer Just Shot Him in the Back' +

    Speaking with news outlets for the first time, witness says victim did not have possession of Taser as officer initially claimed Read More
  • Obama Promises Rare Veto As House Votes to Slow Down Union Elections, Curb NLRB +

    In a show of electoral strength by anti-union Republicans in Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives easily passed legislation Thursday Read More
  • GOP Budget Slashes Tax Rates for the 1 Percent, Safety Net for Everyone Else +

    Proposal, columnist writes, 'is based on an economic philosophy that has failed the country and its people savagely in the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Does Your Legislator Support the ERA

 

ERAMap