By Eliza Laubach
Two new pollutants were discovered in wastewater from oil and gas drilling, a Duke University study has shown. Researchers tested wastewater discharged or leaked into Pennsylvania and West Virginia waterways and found ammonium and iodide in abnormally high levels in hydraulically fractured and conventionally drilled oil and gas operations, both of which are exempt from the Clean Water Act.
The discovered pollutants become toxic in the environment: ammonium mixes with stream water and becomes ammonia, killing wildlife, and iodide interacts with chlorine in drinking water treatment plants, creating toxic byproducts.
“This discovery raises new concerns about the environmental and human health impacts of oil and gas wastewater in areas where it is discharged or leaked directly into the environment,” Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “This practice is clearly damaging the environment and increases the health risks of people living in these areas, and thus should be stopped.”
The findings add to the growing list of concerns from residents affected by fracking. In West Virginia, 100 landowners living in the vicinity of oil and gas wells across seven counties are suing drilling companies for the disruption of their daily lives and disregard for health and the environment posed by fracking wells.