Ammonium and iodide detected in local waterways

January 18, 2015

Scientists have discovered new toxic contaminants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia waterways. The findings by Duke University researchers showed that ammonium and iodide, never before detected in oil and gas operations, are being released at high levels into local streams and rivers. 

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, stated, "This discovery raises new concerns about the environmental and human health impacts of oil and gas wastewater in areas where it is discharged or leaked directly into the environment." He added that current brine treatments used on wastewater in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are incapable of handling these new pollutants.

Ammonium and iodide are highly toxic substances which can have harmful effects on the environment and human health. Ammonium dissolved in water poses a threat to aquatic life, while iodide can mix with the chlorine used to treat drinking water to create harmful byproducts. 

Traditional oil and gas operations, and new hydraulic fracturing techniques are thought to be behind the new pollutants. Previous studies have found other toxic materials, including barium and radioactive elements, in fracking fluids. 

For researchers this is just one more reason to introduce stronger measures to curb water pollution. Duke scientists are finding that the lack of regulations in oil and gas wastewater are leading to an ever increasing amount of contaminants in streams and rivers. Vengosh, a co-author of the new study, said, "It should be regulated and it should be stopped. That's not even science; it's common sense."

The oil and gas industry has not yes responded to this study. Environmental consultants are invaluable in cases such as these. Consultants can conduct investigations and develop remedial strategies for water contamination.