Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US?
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TOPIC: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US?

Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 29 Aug 2014 23:09 #9934

  • Carol McCreary
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A recent newsletter from the US Geological Survey make reference to wastewater disposal in deep wells and associated earthquake risks. Since I'm unfamiliar with this disposal method, I wonder if anyone can provide more insight into this practice.

www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_sto...-earthquake-hazards/

Evidently USGS inquiries into the matter are underway. Here's an excerpt from the newsletter.

Induced Earthquakes … Research Underway

Some states have experienced increased seismicity in the past few years that may be associated with human activities such as the disposal of wastewater in deep wells.

One specific focus for the future is including an additional layer to these earthquake hazard maps to account for recent potentially triggered earthquakes that occur near some wastewater disposal wells. Injection-induced earthquakes are challenging to incorporate into hazard models because they may not behave like natural earthquakes and their rates change based on man-made activities.


EPA FAQs seem to indicate that underground injection of wastewater ("untreated hazardous waste") is now banned (although disposal of toxic tracking chemicals are not). www.epa.gov/r5water/uic/faq.htm

Still, I'd like to know more about this practice.
Carol McCreary
PHLUSH.org
Portland, OR, USA

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 30 Aug 2014 20:24 #9940

  • Sowmya
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From a technical perspective, can the effects of wastewater disposal in deep wells be similar to carbon sequestration (CS)? The US EPA page on CS states the following:

After capture, carbon dioxide (CO2) is compressed and then transported to a site where it is injected underground for permanent storage (also known as “sequestration”). CO2 is commonly transported by pipeline, but it can also be transported by train, truck, or ship. Geologic formations suitable for sequestration include depleted oil and gas fields, deep coal seams, and saline formations. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that anywhere from 1,800 to 20,000 billion metric tons of CO2 could be stored underground in the United States.


If injecting wastewater into deep wells is necessary, a solution could be to use the depleted oil and gas fields etc., same as carbon sequestration.

Thanks and regards,

Sowmya
Sowmya Rajasekaran
Director
Verity SmartLife Solutions
www.veritysmartlife.com

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 01 Sep 2014 13:50 #9972

  • Florian
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Hi,

I think "wastewater" here is waste from the oil and gas extraction industry.

science.time.com/2013/07/12/deep-disposa...nked-to-earthquakes/

Regards,
Florian
Florian Klingel
Water and Sanitation Specialist at Skat Consulting Ltd.
Last Edit: 01 Sep 2014 14:13 by Florian.

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 01 Sep 2014 14:25 #9973

  • JKMakowka
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Not sure what Carol was referring to, but aquifer recharge using treated (!) waste-water (through infiltration/injection boreholes) is happening also in some regions.

Edit: see here for example: www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/3/4/964
Krischan Makowka
WASH Delegate - Philippines
Last Edit: 01 Sep 2014 14:40 by JKMakowka.

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 03 Sep 2014 18:31 #10009

  • F H Mughal
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While it is common practice to recharge boreholes using treated wastewater; and these are some cases of disposing toxic wastewaters through deep well injection system, I think Carol here would like to know more on relationship between the deep well injection system and the earthquakes.

F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 23 Sep 2014 16:34 #10283

  • Carol McCreary
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Thank you everyone. I was thrown off by the term term "wastewater". It is indeed very very broad, isn't it?

On the one hand, it refers to everything that may enter a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP): human waste from toilets, greywater from kitchens and bathing, effluents from industry and manufacturing, which may include a range of toxins, stormwater runoff that includes petroleum and road surfacing products, etc.

On the other hand, wastewater can also mean any solid or liquid or gaseous leftovers or residues from any process of industry or extraction which are intentionally transported or unintentionally carried away in water or another liquid. Could range from toxic effluents from mining to the contents of holding tanks of 4000 passenger cruise ships which are typically emptied as little as 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) off land.

Can we find terms more accurate and less euphemistic than "wastewater"? We know what water is. Non-differentiated "waste" remains the problem.
Carol McCreary
PHLUSH.org
Portland, OR, USA

Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 24 Sep 2014 16:14 #10296

  • KeithBell
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Hi Carol, we use deep well injection of municipal wastewater here in Florida and it's quite controversial as it likely contaminates aquifers.
In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

www.propublica.org/article/injection-wel...he-poison-beneath-us

Fraught with risk:
www.bradenton.com/2014/05/15/5153399/man...ed-with-caution.html

Migration of wastewater into aquifers:
www2.fiu.edu/~pricer/Walsh_Price_2010.pdf

As a side note, USGS just released a new study about pharmaceuticals in wastewater begging the question yet again of why on Earth are we mixing waste with water? Water-based sanitation is a disgrace to Earth. In my view, it does not qualify as "sustainable sanitation." In other words, it's time to stop shitting in water™. Here's the USGS press release:
www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=400...ases%29#.VCGADC5kEm_
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Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 25 Sep 2014 14:17 #10306

  • canaday
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Hi everyone,

I just want to summarize the important USGS study that Keith cited. (The USGS is the Geological Survey of the United States Government.) Here is the actual paper:
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749114002607

They tested for 110 different pharmaceuticals in a stream in Iowa (Midwest USA) that consisted of 71-99% treated municipal wastewater (via Activated Sludge, which cannot effectively eliminate pharmaceuticals). They found up to 61 kinds of pharmaceuticals in the stream and up to 18 of these in the groundwater 20 meters away from the stream, with highest concentrations for fexofenadine, an antihistamine pharmaceutical. They also found antivirals, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, tranquilizers, caffeine and nicotine, as well as medications for treating cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, in this groundwater.

This is very important because the guidelines we apply for locating septic tanks and drainfields tend to say to stay at least 16 meters away from streams and wells, but these results show that these pharmaceuticals can travel farther than that through the soil, especially if they are pushed forward with so much water. (For this reason, the small amounts of leachate from UDDTs and ArborLoos, and the urine dispersed in the soil, well above the water table, are of much, much less concern. )

Why should we force our drugs on many of the world's other species?

If you find this important, please click on the button "I like this post" * (below this on the actual thread, not the e-mail digest). (This plea is especially aimed at the large number of silent members of the Forum, since we would like to hear from you, know how to best serve you, and involve you more.)

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Chris Canaday


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Last Edit: 25 Sep 2014 14:50 by muench.
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Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 20 Oct 2014 16:20 #10610

  • canaday
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Hi everyone,

The BBC Radio Discovery Program just published --Urine Trouble: What Is In Our Water?--

www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/discovery

Some of the interviewees found significant effects of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals that come out in human urine, cannot get eliminated in wastewater treatment (WWT), and find their way into rivers. Other interviewees (who work in WWT) talk about how efficiently they get these chemical out of the water (and one of them said she likes the smell of WWT )

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday
Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 22 Oct 2014 02:10 #10639

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Addressing Carol's original inquiry, "deep well" typically means REALLY deep - like >1 km below the surface. The city of Los Angeles has been deep welling their wastewater sludges like this for years, along with some treated effluent. Although the temperature, pressure, and salinity are quite elevated, methanogenic bacteria convert about half of the carbon in the sludge to methane, which is recovered for its energy content. The other half remains as sequestered carbon. In theory, the CO2 from methane combustion could also be deep welled, but I don't believe they do this.
This is in a former natural gas reservoir, so it is believed to be pretty tightly enclosed. It is separated from usable aquifers by deep layers of salt water. So the idea is that contaminants in the sludge will be degraded before there is any possibility of getting into non-saline groundwater or the surface environment.
Anyway, that's the idea. Whether you think it's interesting or outrageous, I think the topic's beyond the scope of this forum. I'm just responding to Carol's original question.
More information:
www.lacitysan.org/biosolidsems/managing_biosolids/deep_well.htm

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Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 22 Oct 2014 22:29 #10658

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Actually, this is a good place to put in a plug for our breathable membrane latrine project, since the fabric will retain trace contaminants within the fecal sludge while it dries.
We have not tested this, but it should be the case for any non-volatile pollutants since only vapors pass through.
More is here.

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Re: Do you know about wastewater disposal in deep wells in US? 23 Oct 2014 00:32 #10660

  • KeithBell
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Chris, thanks for posting that new BBC program about pharmaceuticals in wastewater. They open the program with discussion of intersex fish downstream of WWTP blamed on estrogenic pharmaceuticals such as birth control pills. But compared to natural estrogens excreted from everyone's intestines, this appears to be a minute fraction of the problem. Who's talking about natural estrogens in wastewater?

Here's a thread I started on the subject earlier this year:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/39-any...-downstream-of-wwtps

EPA admits absolutely no focus on fecal sterols in drinking water:

“No published studies examining the presence of fecal sterols in treated drinking water have been identified.” US EPA, Distribution System Indicators of Drinking Water Quality, 2006″
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