Oil and gas wastewater on the road could mean health and environment woes

May 30, 2018

A truck kicking up dust as it speeds down a dirt road is a typical image in country music videos. But this dust from unpaved roads is also an environmental and health hazard. To prevent dust clouds, some states treat dirt motorways with oil and gas wastewater. Now one group reports in Environmental Science & Technology that this wastewater contains harmful pollutants that have the potential to do more harm than good.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 34 percent of roads in the U.S. are unpaved. These unpaved roads contribute to almost half of the annual airborne particulate matter emissions -- such as dust, dirt and soot -- in the U.S., potentially causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues. In an attempt to prevent these health effects, road managers spread products on these roadways to suppress dust. Almost 200 different dust suppressants, mostly chloride salts or salt brine products that form a coating or help particles aggregate, are available. But these suppressants can be too costly in regions where budgets are tight, so many municipalities turn to a free alternative: salty oil and gas (O&G) wastewater produced from well operations. While O&G wastewater is good for a township's bottom line, there are concerns about contaminants leaching from it into the environment. So William D. Burgos and colleagues wanted to evaluate the potential environmental and human health impacts of this practice.

The spreading of O&G wastewater on roads is permitted in at least 13 U.S. states, with significant spreading activity occurring in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The team studied O&G wastewater spread on roads and found them to contain salt, radioactivity and organic contaminant concentrations above their respective drinking water standards. These substances can be harmful to humans and aquatic life. In lab simulations, nearly all of the metals from these wastewaters leached out after simulated rain events, but metals such as radium - which is radioactive and a known carcinogen -- and lead were partially retained on roadways. The researchers speculate that the radium that did leach could end up in nearby bodies of water. The group proposes that establishing wastewater standards and treatment guidelines for O&G wastewaters spread on roads could help reduce the potential environmental impacts of this practice.
-end-
The authors acknowledge funding from the United States Geological Survey.

The paper's abstract will be available on May 30 at 8 a.m. Eastern time here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.8b00716

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Wastewater Articles from Brightsurf:

New material 'mines' copper from toxic wastewater
A team of scientists led by Berkeley Lab has designed a new material -- called ZIOS (zinc imidazole salicylaldoxime) -- that targets and traps copper ions from wastewater with unprecedented precision and speed.

SARS-CoV-2 RNA detected in untreated wastewater from Louisiana
A group of scientists have detected genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 in untreated wastewater samples collected in April 2020 from two wastewater treatment plants in Louisiana, USA.

Could COVID-19 in wastewater be infectious?
Bar-Zeev, and his postdoc student, Anne Bogler, together with other renowned researchers, indicate that sewage leaking into natural watercourses might lead to infection via airborne spray.

Researchers: What's in oilfield wastewater matters for injection-induced earthquakes
Specifically, he pointed out that oilfield brine has much different properties, like density and viscosity, than pure water, and these differences affect the processes that cause fluid pressure to trigger earthquakes.

Better wastewater treatment? It's a wrap
A shield of graphene helps particles destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the free-floating genes in wastewater treatment plants.

Using electricity to break down pollutants left over after wastewater treatment
Pesticides, pharmaceutical products, and endocrine disruptors are some of the emerging contaminants often found in treated domestic wastewater, even after secondary treatment.

Anammox bacteria generate energy from wastewater while taking a breath
More energy-efficient wastewater treatment may be possible by harnessing anammox bacteria's surprising ability to 'breathe' solid-state matter.

IO hybrid adsorbent to remove hazardous Cadmium(II) from wastewater
In a paper published in NANO, a group of researchers from Hebei University of Technology, Tianjin, China have discovered an effective way to remove heavy metal Cadmium(II) from wastewater.

Using wastewater to monitor COVID-19
A recent review paper from an international research group shows how wastewater could provide a useful tool for monitoring COVID-19 and highlights the further research needed to develop this as a viable method for tracking virus outbreaks.

Rice engineers: Make wastewater drinkable again
Delivering water to city dwellers can become far more efficient, according to Rice University researchers who say it should involve a healthy level of recycled wastewater.

Read More: Wastewater News and Wastewater Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.