Oil and Gas Water Quality

_(lead image:Stuart Logan / Oil Industry support vessel & rig. / CC BY-SA 2.0)_ ## Intro The impacts of the oil and gas industry on water quality can be hard to understand and determine. Some methods in exploring aspects of this, such as the "stick" method for testing sheens are simpler, other methods require the use of sensors to determine changes in water quality, especially within the water column. The activities of the oil and gas industry threatens many of our important drinking water sources and our waterways. It is important to understand the effects this industry has on our communities and how we might monitor for their negative impacts. This wiki page will explore methods people can use for testing water in relation to these concerns. ## Stories Chalmette, Louisiana by @rollinrenola: "Chalmette Refining was built in 1915 it is one of a few refineries built just upstream from New Orleans lower 9th ward. PBF Energy which is based in New Jersey currently owns the 189,000 barrel day facility, which also houses pipelines and other assets on that site. Over the years the company has committed to continued safety and environmentally responsible operations but some residence within only a few miles of the site have been feeling that standards of state and local governments can not be trusted," and that the water they drink is affected by the industry. Some community members believe "not enough as been done and community issues are many times overlooked." In terms of the government "it seems like most of the effort is centered around increasing production and not around lessoning the environmental impact." Read more about the [community surveys and response here](https://publiclab.org/notes/rollinrenola/01-14-2020/social-and-community-impact-of-air-gas-infastructure). [![Oil_sheen_.jpg](/i/37757)](/i/37757?s=o) ## Water Quality Parameters There are several water quality parameters that could be affected with the presence of oil and gas in the water. These include: - **Turbidity**: Turbidity is a water quality parameter that indicates how transparent water is. The less transparent water is, the more turbid it is - or the more "stuff" it has in it. Causes of turbid water can include runoff from the land that that carries sediments, discharge from pollution sources, phytoplankton, and algae. Turbidity is measured by units called " Nephelometric Turbidity Units" or NTUs. You can measure turbidity with an instrument called a nephelometer or turbidimeter, or you can use a device called a secchi disk to measure NTUs in standing water. Turbidity can be affected by oil presence the water as it sit on top of the water column and affects visibility, or suspends within the column itself. [![secci_disk.gif](/i/37564)](/i/37564?s=o) - **Conductivity**: "measure[s] of the capability of a solution such as water in a stream to pass an electric current. This is an indicator of the concentration of dissolved electrolyte ions in the water. It doesn't identify the specific ions in the water. However, significant increases in conductivity may be an indicator that polluting discharges have entered the water...The basic unit of measurement for conductivity is micromhos per centimeter (µmhos/cm) or microsiemens per centimeter (µS/cm)." (http://www.fosc.org/WQData/WQParameters.htm)) Conductivity is often measured with a probe or a meter which can test the electrical capacity of water by measuring the voltage that passes between two electrodes. Oil, gas, and byproducts of the industry such as lubricants, heavy metals, and salts can cause an increase in the conductivity in contaminated water. - **pH**: "Level of pH can indicate chemical changes in water, and the biological availability of nutrients in water. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A safe level of pH of water ranges between 6.5 and 8.5 units. pH levels higher than 8.5 become highly basic, while pH levels below 6.5 become highly acidic for water quality." ([www.cvc.ca](https://cvc.ca/watershed-science/watershed-monitoring/real-time-water-quality/water-quality-parameters/)) "The most common method for measuring pH is with a meter, which involves a pH-sensitive electrode and a reference electrode. Acid-base indicators change color in response to different pH values. Litmus paper and pH paper are used for quick, relatively imprecise measurements. These are strips of paper that have been treated with an indicator. A colorimeter may be used to measure the pH of a sample. A vial is filled with a specimen and a reagent is added to produce a pH-dependent color change. The color is compared against a chart or standard to determine the pH value." ([www.thoughtco.com](https://www.thoughtco.com/overview-of-ph-measurements-608886)) Contamination of oil and gas often changes the pH of water. [![Screen_Shot_2020-01-24_at_2.36.57_PM.png](/i/37760)](/i/37760?s=o) (Edward Stevens, 29 March 2010) - **TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)**: Total Dissolved Solids "refer[s] to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water" ([waterreseach.net](https://water-research.net/index.php/water-treatment/tools/total-dissolved-solids)). TDS can relate to the conductivity and the turbidity of the water, but is often harder to determine as a water quality parameter. TDS is measured as a volume of water with the unit milligrams per liter (mg/L), or parts per million (ppm). Oil and gas contamination can often cause high levels of TDS. - **Temperature**: temperature is also a water quality parameter that can change with the presence of contamination. Thought it should be noted, that temperature can also be affected by many other factors. ## Water Quality Sensors One of the tools for collecting measurements of these water quality parameters is through digital/electronic sensors. These sensors come in roughly three categories: - Expensive, lab-grade sensors: these sensors cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and have clear procedures in place for collecting and calibrating data as well as a high degree of accuracy. - Cheap, consumer sensors: these sensors cost tens of dollars, and are primarily used by people wanting to measure their swimming pools and aquariums. These consumer sensors seem to be limited to temperature, pH, conductivity, and TDS and generally don't have clear, documented procedures for testing and calibration. - DIY electronics sensors: these sensors are not self-contained and require additional hardware and programming to use, usually something like an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi. We have documented the use of a [set of liquid sensors from DF Robot](https://www.dfrobot.com/blog-1138.html) with our [Simple Water Sensor Platform](https://publiclab.org/wiki/simple-water-sensor-platform). This platform is a work-in-progress and is an attempt to design an easy-to-use system for taking water quality measurements from a wide variety of low-cost water-quality sensors. ## Methods/Activities [activities:oil-and-gas-water-quality] ## Questions [questions:oil-and-gas-water-quality] ##Further Resources: - [Sampling/collection methods](https://publiclab.org/wiki/sampling) - [The Newtown Creek Project](https://publiclab.org/tag/newtown-creek) ##Challenges: - Access to local waterways and logistics to doing that work, - We found no clear standards for doing this testing federally, ##Next steps for work and further exploration: - Continue to test, prototype, and document the Simple Water Sensor. See [the Simple Water Sensor Platform wiki page](https://publiclab.org/wiki/simple-water-sensor-platform#Questions+++Next+Steps) for more details. - Research and document ways of knowing *where*, *when*, and *how* to collect water samples and water data that is relevant to oil and gas contamination. - Field test the new kits -Relationships between common water quality metrics and oil and gas contamination is still a little ambiguous and more work in this area could be helpful - Correlating sensing with other data such as skytruth alerts - Identify avenues people have for reporting suspected spills - Collect stories of people's experiences with oil and gas pollution, water monitoring, data collection, organizing, advocacy, - How do these methods relate to other sensing such as visual/odor monitoring? - Are there other ways to measure a sheen from a sensor? None of the sensors we’ve seen try to do this. - Research techniques for analyzing sheens from photography, aerial photography, satellite images, etc. - Look at [Google Earth Engine](https://earthengine.google.com/) as a possible tool for investigating sheens. ...

Author Comment Last activity Moderation
joychai "Nutritional supplement Protetox is marketed as an aid to weight loss. According to the manufacturer, the combination of natural ingredients in this..." | Read more » over 1 year ago
liz "@wmacfarl's reply from above included this link that gets into detail about all the ways water moves in, through, and out of a refinery: https://sa..." | Read more » almost 3 years ago
liz "And this answer to another question is quite complete: https://publiclab.org/questions/wmacfarl/09-25-2019/how-can-we-relate-water-quality-sensor-m..." | Read more » almost 3 years ago
liz "This page collects methods for determining the impact of oil and gas on #water-quality: https://publiclab.org/wiki/oil-and-gas-water-quality " | Read more » almost 3 years ago
Ag8n "Please note-MIGHT be able to detect the gasoline. It would take some work to be sure. " | Read more » almost 3 years ago
Ag8n "One interesting gc mentioned in public lab a while ago was the frog 5000. It's not a gc/ms. But it might be able to do testing for the gasoline. " | Read more » almost 3 years ago
liz "Thank you @Ag8n! Following your replies here with interest. " | Read more » almost 3 years ago
Ag8n "The quickest way would be a liquid/liquid separation on a sample of the water, followed by filtration ( if needed) and injection of the solvent in ..." | Read more » almost 3 years ago
carenacquaviva "Yes, It's a big problem. I have a statement here, read it free time " | Read more » about 4 years ago
stevie "There's a simple test people can do sometimes referred to as "the stick test." In this method, you would use a stick or a rock to poke a hole in t..." | Read more » about 4 years ago
joyofsoy "We got this response on Twitter: Try to set it on fire?https://t.co/tWmJr26diI— Josh Levinger (@jlev) November 6, 2019 " | Read more » over 4 years ago
bhickman "Hi wmacfarl, Typically you would want to have some idea of the turbidity of whatever unknown sample you want to measure. If your measuring a fresh..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
satnam95895 "Samosarecipe.com was share knowledge related samosa recipe " | Read more » over 4 years ago
Markos "Hi wmacfarl, Some more info. This type of sensor does not measure turbidity exactly. It measures the absorbance, or attenuation of light when pas..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Markos "Hi wmacfarl , I've been thinking about affordable ways to calibrate diy photometric devices without having to use commercial standards like formaz..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
warren "Looks like there is an issue with reply by email, or possibly the list => email system, but Alan Marchiori responded on the plots-waterquality l..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
charlotte_clarke "This page from Penn State has a great summary of natural gas activity indicators, their expected levels in areas with natural gas drilling, and rel..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Markos "Hi wmacfarl, Just some information about 3 analytical parameters that indicate the "organic load" in water. By "organic load" I mean the "sum" of ..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
roberts_ecofarm "Yes. Documented harm in other communities would have been helpful. But, the more important thing is documented change. "Harm" may be decades away,..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
wmacfarl "So in this case, access to data collected in communities around other similar injection wells documenting harm would have strengthened your ability..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
wmacfarl "Thanks! It seems like one of the best indicators for oil in water is just visual inspection for an oil sheen (and photography for documentation)? ..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
eustatic "salts, barium are indicators of produced water and TENORM. I should share with you the technical paper that Stroud shared with me. I just got a r..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
roberts_ecofarm "In my community we are facing a lot of threats to water quality. We have many existing oil and gas wells and lots of agricultural land use. Rece..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Ag8n "The older usp method was based on hydrogen sulfide. This was later changed to a thioacetamide based test. This is better, but still not good. The..." | Read more » almost 6 years ago