Wednesday, August 2, 2023

New Penn State Study: Brine Water Pumped From Played-Out Conventional Oil & Gas Wells And Used As Dust Suppressants, Winter Road Treatments Exceed Environmental, Health Standards, Just Like Conventional Oil & Gas Brine Water

Penn State researchers tested the toxicity and chemical composition of brine water pumped from played-out conventional oil and gas wells and used for dust suppressants and winter road treatments and found they significantly exceeded environmental and health standards for 11 major chemical contaminants, including radioactive radium, just like brine water from conventional oil and gas wells regulated by DEP.

The results of the study-- Toxicity And Chemical Composition Of Commercial Road Palliatives Versus Oil and Gas Produced Waters--  were published in the Journal Environmental Pollution on July 13, 2023.

The study included test results for 17 different dust suppressants for dirt roads and winter road treatments, including five different sources of brine water pumped from conventional oil and gas wells-- three conventional well brine waters regulated by DEP and two sources of brine water pumped from played-out conventional wells.

The two samples of brine water from played-out conventional wells included the LS25* dust suppressant distributed by Seneca Mineral in Erie and AquaSalina** distributed by Nature’s Own Source, LLC in Brecksville, OH.

These conventional oil and gas well brine waters exceeded environmental and health standards for iron, manganese, strontium, barium, aluminum, zinc, lithium, copper and lead, according to the researchers.

The chemical contaminant levels generally exceeded the conventional well brine waters regulated by DEP, according to the study.

“Many of the surveyed road palliatives had elevated [radioactive] radium activities. Radium is a naturally occurring carcinogen present in many natural soils and waters.”

“The highest concentrations were observed for the OGPW [oil and gas brine water] samples (84–2500 pCi/L) and were typical of conventional OGPW produced in the Appalachian Basin.”

The sample of LS25 analyzed by the researchers contained 1,780 pCi/L of radium 226 and 123 pCi/L of radium 228.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission discharge standard is 60 pCi/L for both.  The combined radium results were 1,900 pCi/L and the standard is 5 pCi/L.

The sample of AquaSalina contained 651 pCi/L of radium 226 and 392 pCi/L of radium 228.  The combined radium results were 1,040 pCi/L.

The radioactive radium levels generally exceeded the conventional well brine waters regulated by DEP, according to the study.

The authors of the study pointed out radium is often not required to be analyzed by organizations setting standards such as PNS/Clear Roads for dust suppressants and winter road treatments. 

They said, “previous work has shown that Ra [radium] can be mobilized from aquifer materials in areas where sodium chloride is used for WRM [winter road maintenance], increasing the radioactivity of groundwater.

“For example, Tasker et al. (2018) determined that between 2008 and 2014, spreading OGPW on roads in Pennsylvania released 4-times more radium than centralized treatment facilities and potentially 200-times more than accidental spill events.”

“Therefore, application of OGPW [oil and gas production water] and calcium chloride products to roads for WRM and dust suppression could be a significant but relatively understudied source of radium to the environment.” 

Other Results

“Widespread application of chloride-based palliatives to roads poses risks to environmental health that have mostly been attributed to the hypersaline composition of these products. Salts are highly soluble, and as a result, tend to be mobilized from roads during precipitation events and periods of snowmelt.”

“Of particular concern are the high chloride concentrations in these products because of its toxic effects to many aquatic species.” 

“Freshwater chloride concentrations are expected to continue to rise in regions where salt is applied to roads and could exceed current regulatory limits designed to protect aquatic health by 2050.”

“However, ecological impacts are likely to be observed beforehand, as chloride concentrations have been shown to induce toxic effects at concentrations much lower than current regulations.”

“It is important to note that none of these products are intended for human consumption. However, it has been shown that salts applied to roads have contaminated adjacent groundwater. 

“Therefore, risks to human health are possible in areas where chloride-based road palliatives are applied in high amounts near drinking water wells.”

“Results from this study demonstrated that liquid brine solutions had elevated levels of trace metals (zine, copper, strontium, lithium) that could pose risks to human and environmental health. 

“The radium activity of liquid calcium chloride products was comparable to the activity of OGPWs [oil and gas waters] and could be a significant source of radium to the environment. 

“The organic fractions of evaluated OGPWs and chloride-based products posed little risk to human health. 

“However, organic-based dust suppressants regulated toxicity pathways related to xenobiotic metabolism, lipid metabolism, endocrine disruption, and oxidative stress, indicating their use could lead to environmental harm and health risks to operators handling these products and residents living near treated roads.”

The authors of the paper included James Farnan, John P. Vanden Heuvel, Frank L. Dorman, Dr. Williams D. Burgos and Dr. Nathaniel R. Warner.

Click Here for copy of the road palliatives toxicity Paper.

Previous Studies

Research done in Pennsylvania over the last several years by Penn State University and others found significant hazards in conventional oil and gas brine water, particularly in road spreading on dirt and gravel roads.

A study released in May 2022 by Penn State University by many of the same authors as the new research article found conventional drilling wastewater spread on roads in Pennsylvania contains concentrations of barium, strontium, lithium, iron, manganese that exceed human-health based criteria and levels of radioactive radium that exceed industrial discharge standards.  Read more here.

In fact, 25 out of the 31 chemicals and pollutants found in the wastewater exceeded, and in many instances far exceeded, established health or environmental standards, including radioactive radium.  Read more here.

The same earlier Penn State study also found conventional oil and gas wastewater was no more effective than plain water in suppressing dust on roads.  Read more here.

Researchers in Ohio found similar results from testing conventional and unconventional oil and gas drilling wastewater, plus they also looked for PFAS ‘forever chemicals.”  Read more here.

Penn State did not test for PFAS and PFOA ‘forever chemicals” like researchers in Ohio, although other researchers have found PFAS have been used at natural gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania.  Read more here.

PA Road Dumping Problem

In 2021, conventional oil and gas operators reported disposing of 977,671 gallons of their wastewater by road dumping.  Read more here.

Operators reported road dumping a total of 3,259,405 gallons of their wastewater from 2018 through 2021.

However, DEP and the public don't really know how much liquid and solid waste 61,655 conventional oil and gas wells generated in 2022 (over 57 percent) and where it was disposed, treated or recycled because operators failed to submit their waste generation and disposal reports.  Read more here.

Major public landowners like the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Allegheny National Forest and experts like the Penn State Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies all have policies opposing the disposal of this harmful waste on roads or believe other, safer alternatives exist.

Typical Road Dumping

The typical road dumping of oil and gas wastewater on dirt roads involves a vac truck making three or more passes on each section of road using a combination of an open value on the back of the truck and then a blanket pass with a homemade spreader bar that offers no control on the amount of brine spread.

There are no state standards restricting the amount of wastewater that can be dumped on roads, no setbacks from streams or wetlands to avoid contamination and no requirements for testing the wastewater before it is disposed of in this way.  Read more here.

See Photos Here - Read more here.  See Photos Here - Read more here.


PA DEP banned the road spreading of unconventional shale gas wastewater in regulations adopted in 2016.

DEP reiterated again on March 22, 2023 that road spreading of conventional oil and gas wastewater is illegal because it does not meet state Residual Waste regulations, but a co-product determination process could allow it.  Read more here.

However, reports from oil and gas areas say road spreading is continuing unabated.

In 2022, it was reported by conventional oil and gas industry representatives the PA Office of Attorney General was investigating its road spreading practices.  Read more here.

PA DEP should be releasing a draft update to its conventional oil and gas regulations dealing with waste disposal, treatment and recycling, however, a previous draft did not include any provision for banning the practice of road spreading conventional wastewater despite the findings of the most recent Penn State study.

[*Note: A video on the Seneca Mineral Facebook page shows water being pumped from a conventional well in Erie County with the caption: “Our pump brings LS25 from 2,100 [feet] into the earth, to 24 [feet] up the side of the tank, where it then gets a free fall into storage. That’s the only handling our product gets before we put it in our tankers and deliver it to our customers.”

[In September 2007, DEP made a determination water pumped out of a played-out conventional gas well by Seneca Mineral was not regulated by DEP because “similar products are not so regulated.”

[This 16-year-old determination was not made by comparing the toxicity and chemical contaminants in the material itself with environmental and health standards and with an incomplete analysis of the water pumped from the conventional well.  No radioactive radium measurements were made, for example.

[The new Penn State study provides an up-to-date analysis and comparison to current environmental and health standards.

[The water pumped from the conventional well by Seneca comes from the same geologic formations as abandoned or operating conventional oil and gas wells.]

[**Note: The Ohio Department of Transportation has stopped purchasing AquaSalina due to concerns about its environmental impacts.  Read more here.]

Related Articles - Road Dumping Impacts:

-- Penn State Study Finds Runoff From Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Dumped On Unpaved Roads Contains Pollutants That Exceed Human-Health, Environmental Standards  [PaEN]

-- Preliminary Results From New Penn State Study Find Increased Cancer, Health Risks From Road Dumping Conventional Drilling Wastewater, Especially For Children  [PaEN] 

-- New Pitt-Duquesne Study Shows Higher Exposures To Radiation In Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater When Appropriate Exposure Scenarios Are Used  [PaEN] 

-- New Penn State Study Shows Road Dumping Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Has Little Dust Suppression Benefit, Contains Pollutants Harmful To Human Health, Agriculture, Aquatic Life  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Potential For Environmental Impacts From Spills Or Leaks Of Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste Materials Is Real; Health Dept. Not Aware Of All Chemicals In Oil & Gas Wastewater Making Risk Assessment Difficult   [PaEN]

-- Penn State Study Recommends Only Using Nontoxic Products Or Highly Treated Drilling Wastewater To Remove Radium, Oil, Metals Before Road Spreading [PaEN]

--  Penn State: Potential Health Impacts Of Oil and Gas Wastewater On Roads  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Study: Using Oil & Gas Well Brine As Dust Suppressant Less Than Ideal [PaEN]

-- A First-Hand Account Of How Repeated, Unlimited Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Tearing Apart Dirt Roads And Creating Multiple Environmental Hazards [PaEN]

-- The Science Says: Spreading Conventional Drilling Wastewater On Dirt & Gravel Roads Can Harm Aquatic Life, Poses Health Risks To Humans - And It Damages The Roads  [PaEN]

--  Penn State Center For Dirt & Gravel Road Studies: Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater To Control Dust Is Environmentally Unsound Practice  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners Failed To File Annual Production/Waste Generation Reports For 61,655 Wells; Attorney General Continues Investigation Of Road Dumping Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- DEP Report Finds: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Routinely Abandon Wells; Fail To Report How Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Is Disposed; And Non-Compliance Is An ‘Acceptable Norm’  [PaEN]

-- Attorney General’s Office Reported To Be Investigating Conventional Oil & Gas Operators For Illegally Road Dumping Drilling Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- How The Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Industry Eliminated Any Restrictions On The Disposal Of Millions Of Gallons Of Its Wastewater On PA’s Dirt & Gravel Roads  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project - Part 1: Personal Narrative Of Environmental, Health Impacts From Oil & Gas Drilling On Siri Lawson, Warren County [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project - Part II: Personal Narrative Of Environmental, Health Impacts From Oil & Gas Drilling On Siri Lawson, Warren County  [PaEN]

-- DEP: PA Fracking Operations Sent Nearly 236,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2021 - 811,070 since 2016  [PaEN]

-- Feature: 60 Years Of Fracking, 20 Years Of Shale Gas: Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Industrial Infrastructure Is Hiding In Plain Sight [PaEN]

PA Environment Digest Oil & Gas Facility Impact Articles:

-- Articles On Oil & Gas Facility Impacts

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- DEP Investigates Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Leak As Possible Source Of Village Of Reno Water Supply Contamination In Venango County; Customers Under Do Not Consume Advisory For 2 Weeks+  [PaEN]

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - July 29 to August 4; More Abandoned, Leaking Wells, Reno Water Supply Contamination; Rager Mtn. Natural Gas Storage Area Spills  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - August 5  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posts 75 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In August 5 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 

NewsClips This Week:

-- TribLive: Olympus Energy Submits Application To DEP For 5th Shale Gas Well Pad In Upper Burrell Twp

-- PUC: Columbia Gas To Pay $990,000 Penalty In Revised Settlement Involving Home Explosion In Washington County

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: PUC Approves $990,000 Penalty Settlement With Columbia Gas Over 2019 House Explosion In Washington County 

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Negotiating Community Benefits, Like Those With Shell Petrochemical Plant Penalty Fund In Beaver County, Takes A Village; So Does Mitigating Harm

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Equitrans Gets FERC Approval For New Ohio Valley Connector Expansion Pipeline Project To Gulf Coast And Midwest

-- The Center Square: 14 State Attorneys General [Including PA] Want Action On ‘Plastic Pollution Crisis’

Related Articles This Week:

-- New Penn State Study: Brine Water Pumped From Played-Out Conventional Oil & Gas Wells And Used As Dust Suppressants, Winter Road Treatments Exceed Environmental, Health Standards, Just Like Conventional Oil & Gas Brine Water  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: Take A Deep Breath! Now Think What You Just Inhaled. If You Live Along A Dirt Road You Could Be Inhaling Oil & Gas Wastewater - By Siri Lawson, Warren County   [PaEN]

-- DEP Publishes Final Chapter 105 Environmental Assessment Alternatives Analysis Technical Guidance  [PaEN]

-- DEP Sets Sept. 19 Meeting/Hearing On Air Permit For Expansion Of Marcus Hook Terminal’s Ethane Chilling Capacity In Delaware County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Invites Comments On Section 401 Water Quality Certification For Equitrans To Replace Abandoned Natural Gas Storage Wells In Greene County Due To Coal Mining  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Shale Gas Development And Cancer Fact Sheet

-- Eureka Resources Extracted 97% Pure Lithium Carbonate Used In Making Lithium-ion Batteries From Oil & Gas Wastewater [PaEN] 

-- PA Attorney General Henry Joins Coalition Calling For Stronger Federal Strategy To Fight Plastic Pollution Crisis  [PaEN]

[Posted: August 2, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner