Researchers have found traces of oil and gas wastewater in surface waters near an injection well in Fayette County, WV, according to the results of a pair of recent studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Missouri and Duke University.
Scientists collected samples upstream and downstream from an injection well site near Fayetteville, WV, and tested those samples for chemical markers associated with wastewater from unconventional oil and gas production. The results showed elevated levels of sodium, chloride, strontium, lithium and radium in samples taken downstream of the injection well.
USGS said these are the first published studies that “demonstrate water quality impacts to a surface stream due to activities at an unconventional oil and gas wastewater deep well injection disposal site.”
“Deep well injection is widely used by industry for the disposal of wastewaters produced during unconventional oil and gas extraction,” said USGS scientist Denise Akob, who was lead author on one of the studies. “Our results demonstrate that activities at disposal facilities can potentially impact the quality of adjacent surface waters.”
USGS said the studies did not assess how the oil and gas wastewater might have migrated into the surface stream.
The wastewater injected at the Fayette County site came from shale gas wells and coalbed methane, according to USGS.
The Fayette County Commission recently tried to implement a county-wide ban on the underground injection of oil and gas wastewater, reportedly in response to concerns raised over a single injection well operated by a company in the county (see Shale Daily, Jan. 13).
The Fayette County ban was met with legal opposition and put on hold by a judge (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26), and a few months later, the commission walked back some of the language in its ordinance (see Shale Daily, March 29).
Last week, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to see regulators establish stricter federal standards for disposing of waste from oil and gas development (see Shale Daily, May 5).