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Geochemistry and microbiology data collected to study the effects of oil and gas wastewater dumping on arid lands in New Mexico

September 29, 2023

The Permian Basin, straddling New Mexico and Texas, is one of the most productive oil and gas (OG) provinces in the United States. OG production yields large volumes of wastewater that contain elevated concentrations of major ions including salts (also referred to as brines), and trace organic and inorganic constituents. These OG wastewaters pose unknown environmental health risks, particularly in the case of accidental or intentional releases. Releases of OG wastewaters have resulted in water-quality and environmental health effects at sites in West Virginia (Akob, et al., 2016, Orem et al. 2017, Kassotis et al. 2016) and in the Williston Basin region in Montana and North Dakota (Cozzarelli et al. 2017, Cozzarelli et al. 2021, Lauer et al. 2016, Gleason et al. 2014, and Mills et al. 2011). Starting in November 2017, 39 illegal dumps of OG wastewater were identified in southeastern New Mexico which corresponded to a release of approximately 4,000 barrels of fluid onto desert soils. To evaluate the effects of these releases, changes in soil geochemistry and microbial community structure at 6 sites were analyzed by comparing soils from within OG wastewater dump-affected zones to corresponding unaffected (control) soils. In addition, the effects on local vegetation were evaluated by measuring the chemistry of 4 plant species from dump-affected and control zones at a single site. Samples of local produced waters were geochemically and isotopically characterized to link soil geochemistry to reservoir geochemistry. These data sets included field observations; soil water extractable inorganic chemical composition, pH, strontium (Sr) isotopes, and specific conductance; bulk soil Raman, carbon (C), nitrogen (N), mercury (Hg), radium (Ra) and thorium (Th) isotopes, and percent moisture; plant inorganic chemical composition; and soil microbial community composition data. At each site, triplicate soil samples were collected from dump-affected and control zones and duplicate field samples were collected at each site. Plant biomass was collected in triplicate from dump-affected and control zones at a single site. This data release includes eleven data tables provided as machine readable 'comma-separated values' format (*.csv): T01_Permian_Data_Dictionary.csv, the entity and attribute metadata section for tables T02-T11 in table format; T02_Soil_Geochemistry.csv, descriptions of sampling sites and concentrations of major anions, cations, and trace elements from the soil samples; T03_Plant_Geochemistry.csv, concentrations of major anions, cations, trace elements, and Sr isotopes from the vegetation samples; T04_Soil_Isotopes.csv, Sr, Ra, and Th isotopes from the soils; T05_Raman_Counts.csv, Raman spectra counts from the soil samples; T06_Raman_Band_Separation.csv, Raman band separation from selected soil samples; T07_Soil_Organics_Spectra.csv, spectral data of alkane unresolved complex mixtures (UCMs) from soil extracts; T08_Soil_Organics_Summary.csv, a summary of alkane UCMs from soil extracts; T09_Soil_16S_BIOM.csv, microbial operational taxonomic units from the soils; T10_Produced_Water.csv, selected geochemistry and isotopic measurements from produced water samples; T11_Limits_AnalyticalMethods.csv, a listing of analytical detection limits.

Publication Year 2023
Title Geochemistry and microbiology data collected to study the effects of oil and gas wastewater dumping on arid lands in New Mexico
DOI 10.5066/P9UDXNST
Authors Denise M Akob, Robert S Andrews, Shaun Baesman, Danielle M Cleveland, Christopher Conaway, Isabelle M Cozzarelli, Mark Engle, Terry Gregston, Jeanne B Jaeschke, Aaron M Jubb, Mitra Kashani, Douglas B Kent, Mark C Marvin-DiPasquale, Adam C Mumford, Amy K Springfield, Matthew S Varonka
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Geology, Energy & Minerals Science Center