Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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Oil Wells Produce More Than Just Oil - Environmental Impact of Produced Water

Image of salt scar
Salt scar near Lake Skiatook, Oklahoma, caused by a produced-water spill. Photo Credit: David W. Morganwalp, USGS.

Pumping oil and gas out of the ground also produces large volumes of water with undesirable quality known as produced water. Safely disposing of this highly saline water and mitigating the effect of past disposal practices is a national concern for environmental officials, land managers, petroleum companies, and land owners. The U.S. Geological Survey's Toxic Substances Hydrology Program and the Energy Resources Program, along with their partners, have initiated a multidisciplinary investigation to determine the fate and transport of contaminants contained in produced water on the near-surface environment at Skiatook Lake in the southeastern part of the Osage Indian Reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. The results of this investigation will help provide some of the information environmental officials, land managers, petroleum companies, and land owners need to develop cost-effective programs to assess the environmental impact caused by disposal of produced water and to clean up contamination related to the improper disposal of produced water.

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