U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health
The United States is one of the largest users of energy, consuming annually about one-quarter of the energy resources produced in the world. The energy industry and government regulators work to provide energy resources to the public safely and effectively. Management of energy byproducts such as waste materials (including both solid and liquid wastes) from oil and gas development are a critical part of that work. However, spills, leaks, and other factors can create pathways for contaminants to enter the environment and result in exposures to humans and biota. The associated health effects of specific spills have not been demonstrated in many cases, yet the perception of risk can drive action by industry and regulators. Hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists on the Energy Team of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Environmental Health Mission Area conduct studies outside the mission of other federal agencies, by assessing actual versus perceived health effects to humans and biota due to exposures to energy production materials in the environment. This effort utilizes a watershed- and aquifer-based interdisciplinary science approach, providing a "big picture" that helps show where energy development activities are causing adverse health impacts on biota due to environmental contaminant exposures, as well as where they are not causing impacts. With this information in hand industry, land managers and other decision makers are able to balance the critical need for energy with further action, if any, to minimize health risks associated with energy production materials in the environment.
Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?