News Feature | January 29, 2015

New Dangers Found In Produced Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

oilwell.reg

Produced water appears to contain two harmful chemicals that researchers previously did not know about, according to a new study.

"Harmful levels of ammonium and iodide have now been found in wastewater from conventional oil and gas production plus the more controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The chemicals, pulled up from the earth, arrive at the surface at concentrations high enough to harm aquatic life and form cancer-causing compounds when mixed with the chlorine in tap water," according to Science News.

The study, published this month in Environmental Science & Technology, noted the dangers these chemicals may pose.

"Bromide, iodide, and ammonium in surface waters can impact stream ecosystems and promote the formation of toxic brominated-, iodinated-, and nitrogen disinfection byproducts during chlorination at downstream drinking water treatment plants. Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of oil and gas wastewater to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment," the study said.

Treating produced water may not be enough to make it safe.

"The researchers found high levels of both ammonium and iodide in many samples. Even treated wastewater had levels of ammonium up to 50 times higher than the maximum levels found to be safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," the report said.

According to the pro-fracking industry group Energy from Shale, fracking is safe.

"Hydraulic fracturing is safe and well-regulated by federal and state agencies. The technologies and processes continue to be improved, guided by industry standards developed from experiences in the field and which undergo rigorous review before adoption," the group says.

For more produced water news and analysis, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center.

Image credit: "Oil Well," the great 8 © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/