U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?

Wolf Creek Sampling Location Map

Modified from figure 1 from Orem and Others, 2017.

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists working together in the New River Gorge National River watershed have shown:

Some contaminants associated with oil and gas wastewater were found in a small headwater creek immediately downstream from a deep well injection site. However, these contaminants were not found elsewhere in the watershed, including in downstream in the New River.

Thus, potential health hazards examined in this study appear to be limited to a small area in immediate proximity to the injection site and not downstream where the waters are used for recreation and public drinking water supply.

Class II injection well facility

This West Virginia disposal facility disposes of wastewaters from unconventional oil and gas production (UOG) in Class II underground injection control wells. Photo Credit: Kalla Leigh Fleger, USGS.

Most wastewater generated in association with oil and gas operations is managed by injection in deep wells that are designed to safely dispose and contain contaminants in deep geologic formations.

Questions We're Working On:

We are using a similar watershed approach to assess the potential for health hazards in other locations across the United States where wastewater may enter the environment from spills, pipeline breaks, and other mechanisms associated with oil and gas operations.

We are also examining whether chemicals found in spilled energy production wastewaters pose toxicological or other health hazards for downstream aquatic organisms.

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Page Last Modified: 04-Apr-2018 @ 03:16:17 PM EDT