Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) have found “harmful” pathogenic bacteria in Texas groundwater near natural gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford and Barnett shales.

UTA on Tuesday pointed to three separate studies that characterized the groundwater bacteria as harmful.

“Our latest published research has revealed that harmful bacteria can be quite prevalent in Texas groundwater, especially waters that contain various chemical contaminants,” said UTA’s Kevin Schug, who directs the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, or CLEAR.

“The next phase is to evaluate novel treatments against these dangerous pathogens and to develop safe strategies for the remediation of biologically impaired sources of freshwater,” he said.

Two of the three studies were published in Science of the Total Environment, and they delve into microbial communities in the groundwater overlying the Barnett and Eagle Ford.

The two studies “indicate that pathogenic bacteria can thrive in contaminated conditions where natural gas constituents and chemical solvents are present, and that they are particularly resistant to antibiotics and traditional forms of disinfection such as chlorination,” UTA said.

“Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Aeromonas hydrophila were the most common, whereas the Bacillus cereus group was found to be immune to chlorination.”

In the third study, published in the journal Microorganisms, researchers identified two unique species of bacteria, Pseudomonas stutzeri and Acinetobacter haemolyticus, which “could be exploited for the bioremediation of groundwaters that are contaminated with chemical solvents.

“The two bacteria showed a capacity to degrade toluene and chloroform, opening up the possibility that they can be potentially used in the bioremediation of spills,” said UTA.

“Collectively, the methods that we’ve developed through these new studies allow us to quantify more than 2,500 different bacterial species simultaneously in any given sample,” said CLEAR contributor Zacariah Hildenbrand, chief scientific officer for Inform Environmental LLC.