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Science Team about Energy and Plains and Potholes Environments (STEPPE)

Science Center Objects

Brine Contamination to Plains and Potholes Environments from Energy Development in the Williston Basin

In the United States, the Williston Basin occupies 143,000 square miles and includes portions of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Superimposed over this landscape is the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) which includes critical wetland and grassland habitats of importance to breeding, nesting, and migrating waterfowl, and wetland and grassland birds. A potential impact of oil field activities on these important habitats is brine contamination from co-produced waters that leach from oil well reserve pits, injection wells, and transport lines. Previous studies have identified contamination of wetlands and groundwater resources, including drinking water aquifers, located on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), tribal, and public lands, and numerous groups have expressed concern over the potential risk of contamination. Currently, the extent of such contamination across the Williston Basin is unknown, and there is a need for scientific-based information to assess this threat.

See Principal USGS Investigators on right side of page.

Co-PIs and Affiliations/Disciplines:

Mike Borgreen- USFWS Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge 
Aida Farag - USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center
Joel Galloway - USGS North Dakota Water Science Center
Seth Haines - USGS Central Energy Resources Science Center 
Kevin Johnson - USFWS Region 6, Ecological Services 
Karen Nelson - USFWS Region 6, Ecological Services
Zell Peterman - USGS Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center 
Jon Reiten - Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology 
David Rouse - USFWS Region 6, Ecological Services 


Restoring Montana Pothole Wetlands

East Poplar Oil Field

USGS Produced Waters Program

Williston and PRB Groundwater Availability Study