"A Duke University-led study has found high concentrations of two potentially hazardous contaminants in oil- and gas-well drilling wastewater discharged into waterways in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Ammonium, when dissolved in water, can convert to ammonia, which is toxic to aquatic life. Sampling at wastewater discharge sites found ammonium concentrations up to 100 milligrams per liter, or more than 50 times higher than the federal water quality limit for protecting aquatic life. High iodide levels, also found in the wastewater discharge sampling, can react with chemicals used in public drinking water treatment plants to produce toxic chemical by-products."
"Defining wastewater disposal in the Marcellus shale fields has been a moving target. Drillers initially sent millions of gallons to public water treatment plants, until regulators said the plants were not equipped to properly clean the salt- and metal-laden water that comes from shale gas wells. The traditional method of injecting it back into deep wells is less feasible in Pennsylvania, which has few such wells, and Ohio is accepting less wastewater because of potential links between injection and earthquakes."
"A change in the rules for landfills accepting fracking fluid sludges could mean higher prices for disposal, and more oil and gas waste going out of state. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, concerned that concentrated frack fluid waste wasn’t being adequately diluted at state landfills over the past several years, instituted a new policy starting Jan. 1. Annual limits for accepting radioactive waste from oil and gas operations were changed to monthly caps to ensure that such waste was properly mixed with non-radioactive waste at a ratio of 1:50."
"The geologic formations that contain oil and gas deposits also contain naturally-occurring radionuclides, which are referred to as "NORM" (Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials)... Much of the petroleum in the earth's crust was created at the site of ancients seas by the decay of sea life. As a result, petroleum deposits often occur in aquifers containing brine (salt water). Radionuclides, along with other minerals that are dissolved in the brine, precipitate (separate and settle) out forming various wastes at the surface..."
"Staff at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directed that an injection well operated by SandRidge Energy be shut down Tuesday due to continuing earthquakes in Alfalfa County near the Kansas border. The well is the second active wastewater injection well directed to “shut in” or halt operations by the agency since it began a new monitoring system in 2013."
"To date the drilling industry and regulators have considered the risk posed to workers and the public by radioactive waste to be minor. In Pennsylvania, Lisa Kasianowitz, an information specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), says there is currently nothing to “indicate the public or workers face any health risk from exposure to radiation from these materials.” But given the wide gaps in the data, this is cold comfort to many in the public health community."
"A pipeline leak near Williston, North Dakota, that began January 6 has spilled 3 million gallons of brine — a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. The leak has reached the Missouri River. It’s the largest saltwater spill in the state’s history. Brine is considered toxic; it is saltier than seawater and often contains other fracking fluids and petroleum."
"Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio."
"Amid all the pushback to fracking, most of the attention has focused on what drillers put into the ground. The amount of water used. The chemicals that make up energy companies' secret mix. Whether these dangerous chemicals will contaminate our drinking water. But one of the biggest problems of fracking, indeed, the Achilles heel of this innovative drilling technique that is giving fossil fuels a second lease on life is the waste that comes out of the ground."
"A forthcoming proposal to toughen regulations for the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry will target how it stores waste, dampens noise and affects public water resources, schools and playgrounds, state environmental regulators said Monday. The proposal is the first signal from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration of how it will approach the natural gas industry after the Democrat campaigned last year on a promise to toughen state regulation of the industry. He also is seeking lawmakers' approval of higher taxes on booming natural gas production to boost aid to public schools."
"As shale plays in the US boom and bust – the rig count is down again – one thing remains relatively unchanged: fracking is a dirty business. That doesn’t mean it can’t improve, however. Low prices have put pressure on the rapid development of tertiary, or enhanced, recovery methods, but greener, more environmentally friendly innovations could soon pay dividends. Water is the problem, and the scope is huge. Not water in general – on a gallon/MMBtu basis, water consumption for hydraulic fracturing actually ranks below both coal and ethanol production. Instead, what’s left is the issue ..."
"Texas is famous the world over for two things on a massive scale: oil and droughts. Now the slick but dry state is becoming famous for water: that precious element that both resolves the drought problem and also makes it possible to pump more oil out of the ground. Not only does Texas have the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale, but it also has the Gulf of Mexico and its massive oil deposits and endless gallons of seawater that are now economically treatable thanks to next generation water processing technology. As NASA predicts a decades-long ‘mega drought’ later this century, next generation water processing technology coming from within the oil industry promises not only to help solve Texas’ drought problem by accessing and desalinating brackish and slightly salty water sources deep under the dry Texan surface, but to go one step further by desalinating ocean water and turning dirty water into potable water. First, microbes are introduced into the wastewater, which feed on the organic contaminants and release their inherent energy. The energy is then used to create an electric current between positively and negatively charged electrodes. Once live, the electrodes attract the dissolved salt, trapping it on their surface. It does not end there, however. Besides preparing the wastewater for reuse, the battery also creates a surplus of energy that could be used to run equipment on site. Traditional treatment methods are net users of electricity and not providers."
"Earthquakes are a rarity in Youngstown, Ohio but the holidays saw just such excitement as residents experienced two earthquakes, which registered 2.7 and 4.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquakes resulted in no casualties and relatively minor damage, but the historical paucity of earthquakes in the region has led officials to question nearby fracking operations. Hydraulic fracturing, fracking, is a process of drilling for natural gas which has stirred up controversy between environmental and scientific groups—which question its safety—and pro-business groups—which support the economic benefits of recovering potentially massive quantities of natural gas. This week, Politics & Policy will attempt to sort through the controversy, explain exactly what fracking is and whether it is truly as dangerous as some critics have suggested."
"Chemically treated drilling fluid can migrate through thousands of feet of rock and endanger water supplies, said a hydrologist whose research calls into question the safety of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The fluids can migrate faster that previously thought, Tom Myers, a Reno, Nevada, researcher, said yesterday. His study, published in the online journal Ground Water on April 17, says fluids can reach shallow drinking-water aquifers in as little as three years."
"For the first time, Pennsylvania environmental regulators are publicly releasing documents about cases when natural gas operations have damaged private water supplies. A list of 248 incidents is now available on the Department of Environmental Protection’s website with links to the letters sent to homeowners when the agency determined their water well was impacted by gas development."
"During hydrofracking, millions of gallons of water mixed with industrial chemicals and proppant (sand or ceramic particles) are blasted into the well bore to release natural gas. In the Marcellus Shale formation in the northeastern U.S., for example, fracking a single well can require 1 million to 5 million gallons of this water mixture. Waste water that comes back up out of a shale gas well goes by two names: flowback and produced water. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings"
"...The fracking process involves the use of large amounts of water, on average 3 to 5 million gallons of water per well. In the Marcellus shale formation, an average of 430,000 gallons of waste water comes back out of the well. This waste water consists of flowback water, which is of similar composition as the water and chemical cocktail pumped down, and of produced water, which contains the brine that was in the shale formation. So in addition to the fracking chemicals, this waste water contains high concentrations of salt, heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and strontium, and sometimes radioactive elements like uranium, radium, and radon."
"Flowback and produced water are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of safely. According to the EPA, produced waters are typically disposed of in deep wells or “non-potable coastal waters.” Flowback and produced water can contain salt, industrial chemicals, hydrocarbons, and radioactive materials."
"To keep itself off the Toxics Release Inventory, the fossil fuel industry might have a new trick up its sleeve—putting state attorneys general on the payroll. By now most of us have a basic grasp of the way fracking works: Pumps shoot a high-pressure cocktail of water, silt, and chemicals hundreds of feet underground, shattering ancient rock and releasing pockets of natural gas, a whole lot of money, and a brew of toxic byproducts. What we don’t know is exactly how much of which toxins are collecting in the soil, seeping into groundwater, or wafting into nearby communities. Fossil fuel companies have kept it that way, with help from governors, congressmen, senators, and, increasingly, state attorneys general."
"Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale uses millions of gallons of water at each well. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals and pumped deep into the ground at very high pressure to fracture the rock and release the natural gas. Most of it never returns. ...“The majority of the water remains underground, permanently removed from the hydrologic cycle,” said Schmidt at a recent rally in the state Capitol. “It can never sustain life above ground again.”"
" The oil and gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could potentially contribute more pollutants to groundwater than past research has suggested, according to a new study in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology. Scientists are reporting that when spilled or deliberately applied to land, waste fluids from fracking are likely picking up tiny particles in the soil that attract heavy metals and other chemicals with possible health implications for people and animals…"
"Fracking wells in the U.S. generated 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012, according to a new report. That’s enough, as the Guardian notes, to immerse Washington D.C. in 22 feet of toxic water. The report, published Thursday by Environment America, noted the toxic wastewater produced by oil and natural gas operations often contains carcinogens and even radioactive materials. The report also pointed out the weaknesses of current wastewater disposal practices — wastewater is often stored in deep wells, but over time these wells can fail, leading to the potential for ground and surface water contamination."
"Washington • Significant amounts of natural gas on federal lands are being wasted, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year and adding to harmful greenhouse- gas emissions, a congressional investigation has found."
"Pennsylvania State Police report that they put 208 trucks out of service during a recent three-day enforcement effort that focused on commercial vehicles hauling waste water from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations."
"Two chemicals never before considered oil and gas industry contaminants, ammonium and iodide, were found in alarming levels in drilling wastewater discharged into Pennsylvania’s waterways, according to a recent study. The Duke University study, “Iodide, Bromide, and Ammonium in Hydraulic Fracturing and Oil and Gas Wastewaters: Environmental Implications,” was published in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal."