265317 Where the flowback flows; assessments of effluent contaminants from facilities discharging Marcellus Shale wastewater to surface waters in Pennsylvania

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kyle John Ferrar, MPH , Environmental and Occupational Health department, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA
Ned Mulcahy, MPH, JD , Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, Pittsburgh, PA
Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd , Environmental and Occupational Health department, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA
Andrew Michanowicz, MPH, CPH , Environmental and Occupational Health department, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA
Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH , Environmental and Occupational Health department, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA
Ravi K. Sharma, PhD , Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburg, PA
Unconventional natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania has created an enormous wastewater stream containing toxic contaminants. The efficacy of the treatment techniques have been an environmental and public health concern, and on May 17, 2011 a voluntary moratorium was enacted by the state of Pennsylvania in an effort to stop facilities from discharging the wastewater to surface waters. The potential threat to surface waters was investigated by measuring and comparing the water quality of effluents discharged from three facilities; two publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and a commercially operated industrial wastewater treatment plant. Samples were collected at each facility's outfall before and after the state's request. Contaminant concentrations were quantified using ICP-MS and concentrations above health standards were identified. Concentrations were compared among sites using non-parametric statistical methods, and results showed that concentrations of contaminants (barium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, strontium, bromides, chlorides, sulfates, total dissolved solids, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, 2-butoxyethanol) were different in each effluent, (p<.05). Decreases in concentrations were observed at all three facilities (p<.05) for the majority of contaminants after the state's request. The impact of the state's request was also evaluated using facility manifests. They revealed that each facility accepted different volumes of Marcellus Shale wastewaters, and that the POTWs stopped accepting Marcellus shale wastewaters entirely after the the voluntary moratorium. However, one POTW continued to accept conventional oil and gas wastewater, and the commercial facility had only reduced the amount of Marcellus Shale wastewater discharged. The results confirm that the state's request reduced contaminants resulting from Marcellus Shale drilling, but contaminant concentrations in effluents still present a public health hazard at these two sites. Enforceable regulation and increased monitoring needs to be focused at these and other similar facilities to ensure proper treatment of Marcellus Shale and conventional natural gas wastewaters.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Assess the public health threat from Marcellus Shale wastewater contaminants discharged to surface waters. 2. Compare effluent quality from facilities using different methods to treat Marcellus Shale wastewaters. 3. Assess the impact of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protectionís voluntary moratorium aimed at preventing the discharge of Marcellus Shale wastewaters to surface waters. 4. Demonstrate the association of results with self-reported facility manifests for Marcellus Shale wastewater and sampling records.

Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, Water Quality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have trained in environmental sampling and research as a student researcher for the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities over the last five years. Over the last three years, my research has been focused on the environmental impacts of the Marcellus Shale industry.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.