Salting the Earth: The Environmental Impact of Oil and Gas Wastewater Spills

When wastewater from oil and gas extraction is accidentally or illegally released into the environment, the ecological impacts can be immediate and readily visible. Less is known about the potential human health impacts of these briny releases.© Avner Vengosh Most studies of human populations have focused on residential proximity to well pads as a proxy for exposure to drilling-associated chemicals. But studies like these can’t tell which pollutants or factors might be driving associations—or whether observed health problems are even related to oil and gas extraction. © Elise Elliott Between 2009 and 2014 more than 21,000 individual spills involving over 175 million gallons of wastewater were reported in the 11 main U.S. oil- and gas-producing states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming (shown in orange).© Map Resources, EHP A USGS scientist collects sediment samples close to a 2015 spill at Blacktail Creek in North Dakota. Samples were collected at a depth where brine might be expected to have penetrated the soil, then were shipped to various USGS laboratories to evaluate whether the spill altered sediments and microbial communities. © Adam Benthem/USGS Wastewater impacts are not confined to the area immediately around a spill or leak. This USGS sampling crew has drilled through the...
Source: EHP Research - Category: Environmental Health Authors: Tags: News Focus December 2016 Source Type: research

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