Endocrine-Disrupting Activities and Organic Contaminants Associated with Oil and Gas Operations in Wyoming Groundwater
Unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG) operations couple horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing to access previously inaccessible fossil fuel deposits. Hydraulic fracturing, a common form of stimulation, involves the high-pressure injection of water, chemicals, and sand to fracture the target layer and release trapped natural gas and/or oil. Spills and/or discharges of wastewater have been shown to impact surface, ground, and drinking water. The goals of this study were to characterize the endocrine activities and measure select organic contaminants in groundwater from conventional oil and gas (COG) and UOG production regions of Wyoming. Groundwater samples were collected from each region, solid-phase extracted, and assessed for endocrine activities (estrogen, androgen, progesterone, glucocorticoid, and thyroid receptor agonism and antagonism), using reporter gene assays in human endometrial cells. Water samples from UOG and conventional oil areas exhibited greater ER antagonist activities than water samples from conventional gas areas. Samples from UOG areas tended to exhibit progesterone receptor antagonism more often, suggesting there may be a UOG-related impact on these endocrine activities. We also report UOG-specific contaminants in Pavillion groundwater extracts, and these same chemicals at high concentrations in a local UOG wastewater sample. A unique suite of contaminants was observed in groundwater from a permitted drinking water well at a COG well pad and not at any UOG sites; high levels of endocrine activities (most notably, maximal estrogenic activity) were noted there, suggesting putative impacts on endocrine bioactivities by COG. As such, we report two levels of evidence for groundwater contamination by both UOG and COG operations in Wyoming.
The authors greatly thank Deborah Thomas for conducting many of the water sample collection reported herein and for many helpful discussions regarding the region. The authors express wholehearted thanks to the many Wyoming residents who welcomed our team onto their property to allow us to sample water for the analyses reported herein. Additionally, many thanks to Katelyn Cinnamon, Brittany Parmenter, Kara Klemp, Leighton McCabe, Annie Maas, Sierra Baxter, and Jiahao Hu for helping to process water samples upon receipt in our laboratory. Many thanks to Donald P. McDonnell for the generous gift of the following plasmids: pSG5-AR, 2XC3ARETKLuc, 3XERETKLuc, CMV-β-Gal, pcDNA3 PRB, 2XPRE-TK-Luc, pRST7-GR, and MMTV-luc, to Dennis Lubahn for CMV-AR1, to Dennis Lubahn, Elizabeth Wilson, and Michael Carey for PSA-Enh E4TATA-luc, and to Thomas Zoeller, Martin Privalsky, and Michael Goodson for pSG5-hTRβ1 and pGL4-TK-2X taDR4.
Project supported by funds provided by Coming Clean, Inc. (Brattleboro, Vermont), as well as STAR Fellowship Assistance Agreement No. FP-91747101 awarded by the US EPA (CDK). The views and conclusions in this article represent the views of the authors but not necessarily the views of the EPA. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Blewett TA, Delompre PL, He Y, Folkerts EJ, Flynn SL, Aless DS, Goss GG (2017) Sublethal and reproductive effects of acute and chronic exposure to flowback and produced water from hydraulic fracturing on the water flea Daphnia magna. Environ Sci Technol. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b05179 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Casey JA, Savitz DA, Rasmussen SG, Ogburn EL, Pollak J, Mercer DG, Schwartz BS (2016) Unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA. Epidemiology 27(2):163–172Google Scholar
- Clark C, Veil J (2009) Produced water volumes and management practices in the United States. http://www.ipd.anl.gov/anlpubs/2009/07/64622.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Crowe E, Patton S, Thomas D, Thorpe B (2016) When the wind blows—tracking toxic chemicals in gas fields and impacted communities. http://www.comingcleaninc.org/assets/media/documents/When%20the%20Wind%20Blows.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Deutch J, Holditch S, Krupp F, McGinty K, Tierney S, Yergin D, Zoback M (2011) The secretary of the energy board shale gas production subcommittee ninety-day report. http://www.shalegas.energy.gov/resources/081111_90_day_report.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- DiGiulio DC, Wilkin RT, Miller C, Oberley G (2011) Investigation of ground water contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/EPA_ReportOnPavillion_Dec-8-2011.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Drollette BD, Hoelzer K, Warner NR, Darrah TH, Karatum O, O’Connor MP, Nelson RK, Fernandez LA, Reddy CM, Vengosh A et al (2015) Elevated levels of diesel range organic compounds in groundwater near Marcellus gas operations are derived from surface activities. Proc Natl Acad Sci 112(43):13184–13189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Engle M, Cozzarelli IM, Smith BD (2014) USGS Investigations of water produced during hydrocarbon reservoir development. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3104/pdf/fs2014-3104.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2015) Assessment of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on drinking water resources. External Review Draft. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/hf_es_erd_jun2015.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Kassotis CD, Klemp KC, Vu DC, Lin CH, Meng CX, Besch-Williford CL, Pinatti L, Zoeller RT, Drobnis EZ, Balise VD et al (2015) Endocrine-disrupting activity of hydraulic fracturing chemicals and adverse health outcomes after prenatal exposure in male mice. Endocrinology 156(12):4458–4473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kassotis CD, Bromfield JJ, Klemp KC, Meng CX, Wolfe A, Zoeller RT, Balise VD, Isiguzo CJ, Tillitt DE, Nagel SC (2016a) Adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes following prenatal exposure to a hydraulic fracturing chemical mixture in female C57Bl/6 mice. Endocrinology 157(9):3469–3481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Maloney KO, Baruch-Mordo S, Patterson LA, Nicot JP, Entrekin SA, Fargione JE, Kiesecker JM, Konschnik KE, Ryan JN, Trainor AM et al (2017) Unconventional oil and gas spills: materials, volumes, and risks to surface waters in four states of the U.S. Sci Total Environ 581–582:369–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- McKenzie LM, Guo R, Witter RZ, Savitz DA, Newman LS, Adgate JL (2014) Birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural Colorado. Environ Health Perspect 122(4):412–417Google Scholar
- Patterson LA, Konschnik KE, Wiseman H, Fargione J, Maloney KO, Kiesecker J, Nicot JP, Baruch-Mordo S, Entrekin S, Trainor A et al (2017) Unconventional oil and gas spills: risks, mitigation priorities, and state reporting requirements. Environ Sci Technol. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b05749 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rowan EL, Engle MA, Kraemer TF, Schroeder KT, Hammack RW, Doughten MW (2015) Geochemical and isotopic evolution of water produced from Middle Devonian Marcellus shale gas wells, Appalachian basin, Pennsylvania. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 99(2):181–206Google Scholar
- Subra W (2010) Community Health Survey Results: Pavillion, Wyoming. Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. https://earthworks.org/cms/assets/uploads/archive/files/publications/PavillionFINALhealthSurvey-201008.pdf. Accessed 22 Mar 2018
- The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) (2017) TEDX List of Potential Endocrine Disruptors. https://endocrinedisruption.org/interactive-tools/tedx-list-of-potential-endocrine-disruptors/search-the-tedx-list. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Waxman HA, Markey EJ, DeGette D (2011) Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. https://conservationco.org/admin/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Final-Rebuttal-Exhibits.pdf-Adobe-Acrobat-Pro.pdf. Accessed 7 Dec 2017
- Wiseman HJ (2008) Untested waters: the rise of hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas production and the need to revisit regulation. Fordham Environ Law Rev 20:115–169Google Scholar