Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?

Science Center Objects

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists worked together in the New River Gorge National River watershed to answer this question.

 Wastewater generated in association with oil and gas operations at this site is managed by injection in deep wells designed to safely dispose and contain contaminants in deep geologic formations.

Contaminants associated with oil and gas wastewater were found in a small headwater creek immediately downstream from the deep well injection site. However, these contaminants were not found elsewhere in the watershed, including downstream in the New River.

Thus, potential health hazards examined in this study appear to be limited to a small area in proximity to the injection site and not in downstream waters that are used for recreation and public drinking water supply.

Questions We're Working On:

  • What are the potential health hazards in other locations where wastewater from oil and gas production may enter the environment from spills, pipeline breaks, and other mechanisms?
  • Do energy production wastewaters pose toxicological or other health hazards for downstream aquatic organisms?
Modified Wolf Creek Site Map

Wolf Creek site map modified from Figure 1 of 'Organic geochemistry and toxicology of a stream impacted by unconventional oil and gas wastewater disposal operations, Orem and Others, 2017'.