Endocrine disrupting activities of surface water associated with a West Virginia oil and gas industry wastewater disposal site.Sci Total Environ. 2016 07 01; 557-558:901-10.ST
Currently, >95% of end disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater from unconventional oil and gas operations in the US occurs via injection wells. Key data gaps exist in understanding the potential impact of underground injection on surface water quality and environmental health. The goal of this study was to assess endocrine disrupting activity in surface water at a West Virginia injection well disposal site. Water samples were collected from a background site in the area and upstream, on, and downstream of the disposal facility. Samples were solid-phase extracted, and extracts assessed for agonist and antagonist hormonal activities for five hormone receptors in mammalian and yeast reporter gene assays. Compared to reference water extracts upstream and distal to the disposal well, samples collected adjacent and downstream exhibited considerably higher antagonist activity for the estrogen, androgen, progesterone, glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors. In contrast, low levels of agonist activity were measured in upstream/distal sites, and were inhibited or absent at downstream sites with significant antagonism. Concurrent analyses by partner laboratories (published separately) describe the analytical and geochemical profiling of the water; elevated conductivity as well as high sodium, chloride, strontium, and barium concentrations indicate impacts due to handling of unconventional oil and gas wastewater. Notably, antagonist activities in downstream samples were at equivalent authentic standard concentrations known to disrupt reproduction and/or development in aquatic animals. Given the widespread use of injection wells for end-disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater, these data raise concerns for human and animal health nearby.