Harkness JS, Dwyer GS, Warner NR, Parker KM, Mitch WA, Vengosh A. Iodide, Bromide, and Ammonium in Hydraulic Fracturing and Oil and Gas Wastewaters: Environmental Implications. Environmental Science and Technology. 2015 Jan 14.
The expansion of unconventional shale gas and hydraulic fracturing has increased the volume of the oil and gas wastewater (OGW) generated in the U.S. Here we demonstrate that OGW from Marcellus and Fayetteville hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids and Appalachian conventional produced waters is characterized by high chloride, bromide, iodide (up to 56 mg/L), and ammonium (up to 420 mg/L). Br/Cl ratios were consistent for all Appalachian brines, which reflect an origin from a common parent brine, while the I/Cl and NH4/Cl ratios varied among brines from different geological formations, reflecting geogenic processes. There were no differences in halides and ammonium concentrations between OGW originating from hydraulic fracturing and conventional oil and gas operations. Analysis of discharged effluents from three brine treatment sites in Pennsylvania and a spill site in West Virginia show elevated levels of halides (iodide up to 28 mg/L) and ammonium (12 to 106 mg/L) that mimic the composition of OGW and mix conservatively in downstream surface waters. Bromide, iodide, and ammonium in surface waters can impact stream ecosystems and promote the formation of toxic brominated-, iodinated-, and nitrogen disinfection byproducts during chlorination at downstream drinking water treatment plants. Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of OGW to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.