PSE Executive Director Seth Shonkoff, PhD, MPH, and PSE Senior Scientist Dominic DiGiulio, PhD, co-authored an article in the trade journal EM Magazine on the treatment and use of produced water from oil and gas production and the need for assessments of chemical risks.
A portion of produced water from conventional and unconventional oil and gas development is currently being reused to irrigate food crops, water livestock, recharge aquifers, create and maintain wetlands, and suppress dust, among other uses. Produced water is also sometimes treated at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and discharged to surface water. As oil and gas field produced water is increasingly used, questions have arisen as to whether it is safe.
The articles concludes that organic compounds used in oil and gas development are not fully disclosed and thus cannot be identified in produced water and fully evaluated for potential risk to human health and the environment. The authors recommend that policies and research agendas should be promulgated that set a course to systematically assess the risks of produced water reuse to ensure that appropriate monitoring and treatment options exist prior to a further expansion of this practice.