EPA Report Suggests More Oil and Gas Wastewater Headed for U.S. Waterways

Statement by Mark Brownstein, Senior Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund

May 15, 2019
Kelsey Robinson, krobinson@edf.org, 512-691-3404

(NEW YORK, NY) – New information from the U.S. EPA suggests the agency may roll back vital safeguards that keep many oil and gas producers from discharging hazardous wastewater into rivers and streams. Oil and gas development generates 900 billion gallons of salty, chemical-filled wastewater a year. Companies traditionally dispose of this wastewater deep underground to prevent contamination, but new economic hurdles are causing the industry and some states to consider riskier, unproven disposal practices. 

“The U.S. oil and gas industry is awash in a sea of wastewater. And the science does not yet exist to say it’s clean enough to release into rivers and streams or to use for crop irrigation and other public purposes. Suggesting otherwise is reckless and the latest example of Trump’s EPA putting the economic interests of industry ahead of the health and safety of our communities and the farmland that produces our food.”

Oil and gas wastewater is poorly characterized. It can contain thousands of chemicals, including some that are toxic to humans and animals. Approved detection methods can spot only a tiny fraction of these chemicals. EDF is working with scientists, regulators, and operators to develop a better understanding of wastewater to improve the way it is stored, transported, treated, and disposed of to reduce its environmental impact. 

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