Lab News and events:
January 21, 2020: Avner Vengosh interview to Duke University Chronicle on “Duke Energy settlement results in the country’s largest coal ash cleanup”
January 15, 2020: A new paper entitled “Hydrochemistry of flowback water from Changning shale gas field and associated shallow groundwater in Southern Sichuan Basin, China: Implications for the possible impact of shale gas development on groundwater quality” was published in the Journal Science of the Total Environment. The study examines possible groundwater contamination near shale gas wells in Sichuan basin, China by using sensitive geochemical tracers to track possible groundwater contamination derived from shale gas flowback and produced waters.
January 7, 2020: Avner Vengosh was interviewed at the NPR show State of Things on the settlement that was reached with Duke Energy to remove coal ash ponds in North Carolina: “Sorry to spoil the party, the game is not over” See; NPR show “Duke Energy And NC Reach A Settlement Over Nearly 80 Million Tons Of Coal Ash”
November 19, 2019: Avner Vengosh was named to the list of Highly Cited Researchers for 2019 that includes 54 of Duke’s most prominent and influential researchers. Recognizing the world’s most influential researchers of the past decade, demonstrated by the production of multiple highly-cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in Web of Science. See Duke press release here.
November 13, 2019: A new paper titled “Occurrence and distribution of hexavalent chromium in groundwater from North Carolina, USA” was published in Science of the Total Environment. Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) is a groundwater contaminant that is potentially harmful to human health. Understanding the occurrence of Cr(VI) in groundwater resources is critical for evaluating its risks to human health. This study confirms that Cr(VI) is the predominant species of dissolved Cr and that groundwater from aquifers in the Piedmont region contain significantly higher concentrations than groundwater from the coastal plain. Though there is only one exceedance of the U.S. EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (100 mg/L for CrT) in the dataset, over half of all wells measured for Cr(VI) (470 out of 865) in the dataset exceeded the N.C. Health Advisory Level of 0.07 µg/L. While this study focuses on N.C., the wide-spread occurrence of Cr(VI) in groundwater at concentrations above health guidelines in aquifers of the Piedmont region could pose high human health risks to large populations in the eastern U.S. The paper was reported in Duke press release and published in NPR, WFDD, NSF Research news, Triangle Business Journal, the Progressive Pulse,
October 16, 2019: A new paper titled “Lead isotopes as a new tracer for detecting coal fly ash in the environment” was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. This is the first study to systematically characterize the stable lead isotope ratios in fly ash derived from coals from the three major coal-producing basins in the United States. The lead isotopic signature of fly ash is distinguishable from that of major anthropogenic lead sources in the United States, including leaded gasoline and paint, as well as the lead isotope ratios of naturally occurring sediments and soils. Lead isotopic analysis of sediments from Sutton Lake in North Carolina, where other indicators have identified the occurrence of fly ash solids from unmonitored coal ash spills, shows a well-defined mixing between the Pb of unimpacted sediments and that of Appalachian Basin fly ash. This result further validates the applicability of lead isotopes as a new tracer for detecting the occurrence of coal fly ash in the environment. The study was reported in Duke press release, and was published in multiple media outlets.
October 14, 2019: A new paper titled “Quantification of the water-use reduction associated with the transition from coal to natural gas in the U.S. electricity sector” was published in Environmental Research Letters. This study quantifies the water footprint of the transition from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources in the U.S. electricity sector. We show that in spite of the rise of water use for hydraulic fracturing, during 2013-2016 the overall annual water withdrawal (8.74×1010 cubic meter) and consumption (1.75×109 cubic meter) for coal were larger than those of natural gas (4.55×1010 m3, and 1.07×109 m3, respectively). We find that during this period, for every MWh of electricity that has been generated with natural gas instead of coal, there has been a reduction of ~one cubic meter in water consumption and ~40 cubic meter in water withdrawn. Examining plant locations spatially, we find that only a small proportion of net generation takes place in water stressed areas, while a large proportion of both coal (37%) and natural gas (50%) are extracted in water stressed areas. We also show that the growing contribution of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar will reduce water consumption at an even greater magnitude than the transition from coal to natural gas, eliminating much of water withdrawals and consumption for electricity generation in the U.S. The study was reported in Duke press release, and was published in multiple media outlets.
October 2, 2014: Avner Vengosh testified on the harmful effects of coal ash and the risks of softening the 2015 EPA coal ash rules at an EPA hearing in Arlington, Va. Here is the text of the testimony.Vengosh comments on EPA Phase 2 Amendments_final This was covered by Duke press release, the News and Observer, Sierra Magazine, North Carolina Health News, Coastal Review Online, S&P Global, Waste 360, ABC News, Indiana Environmental Reporter, Utility Dive, Futurity, WFEA radio, Star Tribune,
September 24, 2019: A new paper titled “Disinfection byproducts in Rajasthan, India: Are trihalomethanes a sufficient indicator of disinfection byproduct exposure in low-income countries” was published in Environmental Science and Technology. This study investigated the occurrence of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in drinking water in two mag cities in northwestern India, Jaipur and Jodhpur and found that the common DBP – trihalomethanes (THM4) that is commonly used and regulated as an indicator of overall DBP exposure in many countries is not correctly reflecting the presence of other toxic DBPs in teh drinking water. We show that the use of impaired water sources contaminated by domestic wastewater can decouple the formation of THM4 from other DBP classes that are more potent toxins. The analyses of THM4 and 21 unregulated DBPs in tap waters and laboratory-treated source waters showed that DBP group of haloacetonitriles typically were the dominant contributor, while the contribution of THM4 was negligible. The total toxic DBP concentrations in some waters were elevated compared to conventional drinking waters in high-income countries and more closely resembled chlorine-disinfected wastewater effluents. Artificial sweeteners confirmed widespread contamination of both surface and groundwaters by domestic sewage. The results suggest that THM4 may not be an adequate indicator of overall DBP exposure in impaired water supplies prevalent in some low-income nations. This study highlights the trade-off between disinfection and pathogen control versus the formation of toxic DBPs because of this disinfection and the additional risks of wastewater contamination of water resources in India and elsewhere.
May 24, 2019: A new paper titled “Evidence for Unmonitored Coal Ash Spills in Sutton Lake, North Carolina: Implications for Contamination of Lake Ecosystems” was published in Science of the Total Environment. This is the first time that coal ash solids were found in an open recreation lake outside of coal ash storage site. Duke University issued a press release and the report was published in many media outlets, including the New York Times, the Progressive Pulse, Coastal Review Online, News and Observer, and others. Here is a copy of the paper.SOTE_Evidence for unmonitored coal ash spills in Sutton Lake
April 9, 2019: Editor’s Choice for the Best Papers Published in ES&T Letters in 2018:
August 15, 2018: A new paper “ The intensification of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing” was publish in Science Advances. The paper shows that the water use for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater production in major shale gas and oil production regions has increased; from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased up to 770%, while flowback and produced water volumes generated within the first year of production increased up to 1440%. The water-use intensity (that is, normalized to the energy production) increased ubiquitously in all U.S. shale basins during this transition period. The steady increase of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing with time implies that future unconventional oil and gas operations will require larger volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing, which will result in larger produced oil and gas wastewater volumes. The paper can be downloaded here: Science Advances_ intensification of the water footprint of Hydraulic fracturing
Duke University issued a press release and the study was covered in many newspaper and media outlets, including the Independent, Inside Climate News, Huffpost, Trueout, Popular Science, Desmong, State Impact Pennsylvania, Xinhua, The Weather Channel, Digital Journal, Think Progress, Futurity, Axion, Water World, EcoWatch, Mother Jones, Nation of Change,
July 15, 2018: Our paper entitled “The geochemistry of naturally occurring methane and saline groundwater in an area of unconventional shale gas development”, which was published in 2017 in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, (vol. 208, p. 302-334) was selected to be the winner of TSOP’s prestigious Dalway Swaine Award for 2018. This award is given by the Society for Organic Petrology in recognition of the best refereed paper in Coal and Hydrocarbon Source Rock Geochemistry. Here is a copy of the paper.GCA_Groundwater in WV
July 11, 2018:Avner Vengosh gave a keynote presentation at the British Hydrogeologist Group in the conference “Use of the deep subsurface in the UK: what are the Implications for groundwater resources?” held in London, UK. For the conference program, see here.
June 24, 2018: Avner Vengosh gave an invited talk entitled “The Origin of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids” at the Gordon Research Conference “ Innovations at the Intersections of the Aquatic Sciences: Water Quality, Health, Materials, Technologies”, at Holderness, New Hampshire. For more information on the conference see here.
June 7, 2018: A new study shows large-scale uranium contamination in India’s groundwater. As part of Vengosh lab investigation of the quality of groundwater in India, a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters shows high uranium levels in groundwater from different aquifers and areas in India. The study is based on systematic fieldwork and analysis of over 300 water samples in different parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, combined with extensive data compilation from previous studies and reports throughout India. The geochemistry and uranium isotope ratios indicate that in most cases the source of the uranium in the groundwater is naturally occurring (geogenic) and derived from interactions with the aquifer rocks. We showed that the high uranium prevalence in groundwater reflects multiple factors such as the aquifer lithology, groundwater oxidation conditions, and water chemistry such as high bicarbonate concentrations that causes the predominance of the soluble uranium-carbonate species. Human activities such as over-exploration and decline of the groundwater level as well as nitrate pollution exacerbate the uranium contamination in the Indian’s groundwater. Duke issues a press release on this study, which was highly cited in the popular media and outlets including Sky News, Tech2, the Indian Express, Money Control, Inhabitat, CanIndia, the Hindu, New Kerala, Economics Times, ScienceDevNet, the pioneer, Digital Journal, Financial Express, Down to Earth Magazine, Radio Florida, Le Demajagua, the Weather Channel, Weird Globe, the News Headline, Eco-Business, the Wire, Daily Pakistan, Free Press Journal, the Times of India, and Mongabay.
Following some comments to our paper , we provided a detailed response in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. The response can be read here: Response to Comments on “ Large-Scale Uranium Contamination of Groundwater Resources in India ”
April 25, 2018: Avner Vengosh testified at a Congregational Briefing on coal ash. See also related news items in Power Magazine, Blue Ridge Public Radio, New Republic, CBS News, Electric Light & Power,
See also the commentary article “Why the EPA’s Proposed Coal Ash Rule Is Concerning” published on June 1, 2018 in PowerXX_PWR_060118_Commentary_p60-CV4
April 2, 2018: Avner Vengosh is mentioned in an article by Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker: Scott Pruitt’s dirty politics.
February 18, 2018: A new paper on the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing in Sichuan basin, China. A new study that quantifies the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing in Sichuan Basin, China was published in Science of the Total Environment. The paper provides, for the first time systematic data on the water use for hydraulic fracturing and the rate of flowback water production from shale gas wells in Weiyuan gas field, one of the major gas fields in Sichuan Basin, China. The study shows that that shale gas production rates during the first 12 months (24 million m3 per well) are similar to gas production rates in U.S. shale basins. The amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing (34,000 m3 per well) and the volume of flowback and produced (FP) water in the first 12 months (19,800 m3 per well) in Sichuan Basin are also similar to the current water footprints of hydraulic fracturing in U.S. basins. The study utilizes the water use data, empirical decline rates of shale gas and FP water productions in Sichuan Basin to generate two prediction models for water use for hydraulic fracturing and FP water production upon achieving China’s goals to generate 100 billion m3 of shale gas by 2030. The first model utilizes the current water use and FP production data, and the second assumes a yearly 5% intensification of the hydraulic fracturing process. The predicted water use for hydraulic fracturing in 2030 (50–65 million m3 per year), FP water production (50–55 million m3 per year), and fresh water dilution of FP water (25 million m3 per year) constitute a water footprint that is much smaller than current water consumption and wastewater generation for coal mining, but higher than those of conventional gas production in China. Given estimates for water availability in Sichuan Basin, these predictions suggest that water might not be a limiting factor for future large-scale shale gas development in Sichuan Basin.
January 4, 2018: A new paper on accumulation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) on stream sediments in disposal sites in Pennsylvania. A new paper titled “Sources of radium accumulation in stream sediments near disposal sites in Pennsylvania: Implications for disposal of conventional oil and gas wastewater” was published in Environmental Science & Technology. The paper shows the results of a long-term monitoring of the radium isotopes and their decay products in stream sediments from three disposal sites in Pennsylvania, where treated oil and gas wastewater has been disposed to the river and local streams. The study shows that the disposal of even treated oil and gas wastewater causes large accumulation of radium isotopes in the impacted sediments. Using the radium-228 to thorium-228 and radium-228 to radium-226 ratios and evaluating the decay rate of radium-228 and in growth rate of thorium-228, the study quantifies the accumulation time of radium and indicates that the sediments were recently (less than 3 years) impacted by conventional oil and gas wastewater. The results of the study clearly indicate that the current policy that allows the disposal of conventional oil and gas wastewater (and restricts only unconventional fracking wastes) does not prevent contamination of stream sediments at disposal sites, and thus should be reevaluated. Duke has issued press release. Several media outlets reported the study, including Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, State Impact PA, Oil City Derrick, Public News Service, the Wellsboro Gazette, Eurasia Review, Chemical and Engineering News (c&en)
January 4, 2018: A new paper on the geochemistry of oil sands process-affected water. A new paper titled “Characterization of the boron, lithium, and strontium isotopic variations of oil sands process-affected water in Alberta, Canada” was published in Applied Geochemistry. The paper presents systematic characterization of the geochemistry, boron , lithium, and strontium isotopes of oil sands process-affected water from tailings ponds as compared to other water resources (shallow groundwater, deep groundwater, brines, rivers) in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. In addition to generating new data, the study compiled published data to build a comprehensive data set of the geochemical composition of different water sources in the oil sands region of Alberta. The integration of boron, lithium, and strontium isotopes provides a potential monitoring tool for tracing oil sands process-affected water release to local freshwater sources. A multi-international team from Duke University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Alberta in Edmonton, BRGM in France, and Geological Survey of Canada were the co-authors of this paper. Here is the paper Oil Sands isotopes
December 15, 2017: A new paper on the global biogeochemical cycle of vanadium was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A new paper titled “Global biogeochemical cycle of vanadium” authored by Bill Schlesinger, Emily Klien, and Avner Vengosh was published in PNAS. The paper shows that Human emissions of vanadium to atmosphere exceed natural sources by a factor of 1.7 and are destined to rise dramatically as humanity increases the use of heavy oils, tar sands, and bitumen as combustion sources. Duke press release and other media outlets (Applied Science and Technology, Pennies from Heaven, R&D Magazine) have reported this paper.
December 11, 2017: GroundWater Vision 2030 in India. Avner Vengosh was invited to present an opening keynote presentation titled “Challenges and Opportunities of groundwate resources in Southeast Asia” at the 7th International Groundwater Conference on “Groundwater Vision 2030” held in New Delhi, India, last week. In addition, Professor Vengosh gave a second keynote presentation titled “New Insights into Groundwater Quality in Northwestern India”. The conference was hosted by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Institute of National Hydrology in India with participation of the ministers and secretaries of the water and environment ministries in India. The presentation of Dr. Vengosh was part of a new research program aims to evaluate emerging contaminants issues in groundwater and drinking water in India, with special emphasis on water resources in northwestern India.
November 8, 2017: Some Coal Ash from China Too Radioactive for Reuse. A new study published in Environmental Science and Technology reveals that elevated level of uranium is some of coal deposits in China can lead to extreme high levels of radioactivity in coal combustion residues (CCRs) generated from these coals. The study examined the occurrence and distribution of radium (radium-226 and radium-228) and lead (lead 210) nuclides from the uranium- and thorium-decay chains in coals from different basins in China as well as coal ash from one site where such uranium-rich coal is utilized. Based on these results, the relationships between NORM levels in CCRs and uranium contents in parent coals were established. The magnitude of radiation that was found and modeled in some of the Chinese coal ash far exceeds safe standards for radiation in building materials. By comparing the ratio of uranium in the coal to the radioactivity of the coal ash, the study identified a threshold at which uranium content in coal becomes too high to allow coal ash produced from it to be used safely in residential building construction. This threshold — roughly 10 parts per million of uranium– is applicable to high-uranium coal deposits worldwide, not just in China, and should be considered when deciding whether to allow coal ash to be recycled into building materials. This study is part of collaboration between Duke University (Avner Vengosh group) and China University of Mining and Technology (CUMT) in Beijing and Xuzhou, China (Shifeng Dai group). Duke press release is posted here, an article in the Duke Chronicle, Asian Scientist Magazine, German news,
November 1, 2017: High molybdenum in Wisconsin groundwater is not from coal ash contamination. A new study entitled “Naturally Occurring versus Anthropogenic Sources of Elevated Molybdenum in Groundwater: Evidence for Geogenic Contamination from Southeast Wisconsin, United States ” published in Environmental Science and Technology reveals that high molybdenum discovered in in drinking-water wells in southeastern Wisconsin is not derived from coal ash disposal sites that are highly abundant in this region, but rather is naturally occurring (geogenic), originated from mobilization of of molybdenum from sulfur-rich rocks. The study utilized overall water chemistry, geochemical tracers of boron and strontium isotopes, combined with age-dating isotope techniques to show that the molybdenum-rich groundwater is old (residence time >300 years) with geochemical fingerprints that are not consistent with those expected for coal ash contamination. This study is a result of collaboration between Duke University (Avner Vengosh group) and Ohio Sate University (Tom Darrah group) with the help and support of Clean Wisconsin. Duke press release is posted here. The study was reported in the Herald Sun newspaper.
September 19, 2017: Environmental and Human Impacts of Unconventional Energy Development – Virtual Issue in Environmental Science and Technology and Environmental Science and Technology Letters:
Avner Vengosh (Duke University), William A. Mitch (Stanford University) and Lisa M. McKenzie (University of Colorado Anschutz Campus) were the guest editors of a special virtual issue “Environmental and Human Impacts of Unconventional Energy Development”. for the journals Environmental Science and Technology and Environmental Science and Technology Letters:
The rise of the “shale revolution” at the beginning of the 21st century triggered a hotly contested public debate as to whether the economic benefits of extraction of natural gas and oil from unconventional resources (unconventional oil & gas; UO&G) such as deep shale plays outweigh the environmental and health risks. Benefits are purported to include an expanded energy portfolio and reduced climate forcing through greater availability of natural gas, whose combustion emits less carbon dioxide and other air pollutants than for coal. Risks are purported to include increased climate forcing as a result of fugitive methane emissions, localized air and water pollution, and ecological and community impacts.Our understanding of the environmental and human impacts of UO&G continues to evolve. Given how UO&G has transformed energy systems worldwide, continued efforts are required to ensure the optimal balance between benefits and risks. Therefore, Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) and Environmental Science & Technology Letters (ES&T Letters) have organized a Virtual Issue that highlights recent advances in the following areas:
Despite intense recent research focus in this area, there remains many gaps in our understanding of the impacts of UO&G, including, but not limited to: air pollutant emissions rates for less-well studied U&OG plays, ecological effects of high intensity, long-term UO&G operations, role of hydraulic fracturing fluids (vs. hydrocarbons) in toxicity of hydraulic fracturing wastewaters, how best to treat, reuse and/or dispose of the vast quantities of UO&G wastewater, and the interaction between chemical and non-chemical (e.g., social, infrastructure) UO&G stressors. Given the long list of research needs, we invite the community to submit studies to ES&T and ES&T Letters that significantly advance our understanding of the environmental and human risks and benefits of UO&G. Objective scientific research on environmental issues associated with UO&G is especially needed given the intense public debate on the environmental effects of UO&G. See full editorial: acs.est.7b04336
August 1, 2017: Fracking Studies Earn ‘Most Cited’ and ‘Highly Read’ Accolades from the American Chemical Society. The editors of the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters have tapped the 2015 paper, “Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing,” by PhD student Andrew Kondash and Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality, as one of their five Highly Read Editors’ Choice selections. A 2013 paper by Vengosh’s lab, “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania” has been recognized as one of the five most cited articles published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Avner Vengosh was recognized as the Highly Prolific Author for Environmental Science & Technology Letters (see list). Here are Duke press release and Duke Chronicle article.
April 25, 2017: A new study on the impact of shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing on water quality in West Virginia.
A new study was published in Geochemica Cosmochimica Acta reports a three-years study and evaluation of the quality of groundwater and surface water in areas of intensive shale gas development in West Virginia. The study investigated drinking water wells before and after the installation of nearby shale gas wells for a wide range of geochemical tracers including major and trace elements, water isotopes, isotopes of dissolved salts (boron, strontium, lithium, carbon), hydrocarbons and their stable carbon isotopes, and noble gas geochemistry. This is one of the most comprehensive studies that have investigated the possible impact of hydraulic fracturing on water quality. The results of the study show that saline groundwater and relatively high levels of hydrocarbons in shallow aquifers are derived from naturally occurring processes and are not affected by shale gas development. In contrast, recurrences of spills have caused surface water contamination with geochemical fingerprints identified to flowback and produced waters from shale gas wells. Duke University has issued a press release on this study. The study was reported in NPR StateImpact, Libertarian Republic, Daily Caller, E&E News, Fox News, the Science Times, Public WV Radio, Editorial on Darkersburg News and Sentinel, MetroNews, Hoppy Kercheval Radio Show,
April 15, 2017: A new study on fluoride exposure. A new study on biomarkers of chronic fluoride exposure of rural populations in Ethiopia was published in Science of the Total Environment. The paper examined the relation between fluoride concentrations in fingernail clippings and urine and the prevalence and severity of enamel fluorosis among Ethiopian Rift Valley populations exposed to high levels of fluoride in drinking water.
January 12, 2017: $500,000 USDA Grant Funds Study on Impacts of Using Oilfield Wastewater for Irrigation. A team of Duke University and RTI received funding from USDA to study the long-term impact of using oilfield brines for irrigation in California. The Duke team composed of Avner Vengosh and Erika Weinthal will look at the possible impact on soil and plant chemistry in areas where oilfield brines have been used for irrigation in Central Valley, California. This project is part of the Energy-Water-Food Nexus research at Duke University. For more information see here. For information on the project and the participants see the project web site.
November 1, 2016: Avner Vengosh was selected for the the 2016 Reviewer Awards by the editors of Environmental Science and Technology. The announcement by Editor in Chief David Sedlak include :
“Each year we present reviewer awards to recognize the efforts of exceptional reviewers who somehow found time in their busy schedules to review multiple papers and share deep insights with us. These are the people who went the extra distance to provide reviews that bring authors back to ES&T. They are the ones who turned a good manuscript into an excellent paper. They are truly the peers behind our peer review.”
October 26, 2016: A new study on the origin and distribution of hexavalent chromium in drinking water wells from the Piedmont region of North Carolina was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. The study, shows that hexavalent chromium is naturally occurring, originated from water-rock interactions, particularly in aquifers composed of mafic rocks. The data show that groundwater samples with high hexavalent chromium had chemical and strontium isotope ratios that are different from the compositions expected for coal ash contamination. This study is the first to show that hexavalent chromium occurrence is not restricted to sites affected to anthropogenic contamination and the distribution of hexavalent chromium is much wider in drinking water wells than previously anticipated. The paper was selected as Editors Choice and is posted here: hexavalent-chromium-in-piedmont-groundwater. The study was reported in Duke Press release, followed by TV shows including WRAL , WBTV, ABC News , radio shows including NPR _WUNC, WFAE (with David Boraks) , and numerous news items including Washington Post, Charlotte Observer, Richmond Times, North Carolina Health News, Fayetteville Observer, Progressive Pulse, The Herald Sun, Sanforld Herald, Charlotte Buisness Journal, The Daily Tarheel,
October 14, 2016: A new study on the quantity and the source of wastewater originated from unconventional oil and gas wells was published in Science of the Total Environment. The study evaluates the volume and dynamics of wastewater generated from oil and gas wells in the major unconventional oil and gas basins in the U.S. The study shows that during the first few months the volume of wastewater is high and yet after 6 months the volume is typically reduced by an order of magnitude, similar to the reduction of hydrocarbons extracted from shale gas and tight oil wells. The study shows that the volume of the injected water returned to the surface is far lower than the volume of the injected hydraulic fracturing water. By using the changes in the salinity of the flowback water, the study conducted mass-balance calculations to show that the contribution of the returned injected hydraulic fracturing fluids is low and consists of 4-8% of the total volume of unconventional oil and gas wastewater. In contrast, the volume of the formation water that is entrapped within the shale or tight sand consists more than 90% of the total volume of unconventional oil and gas wastewater. Duke press release is presented here. The study was published in several media and news items, including Daily Caller, Water World, Kallanish Energy.
June 10, 2016: A new study that presents evidence for leaking of coal ash ponds in the Southeastern U.S. was published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study examines possible leaking of coal ash ponds from 7 coal ash pond sites in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky and 14 sites in North Carolina. We used geochemical and isotope tracers to demonstrate that all of the investigated sites are leaking to both surface water and one site also to shallow groundwater. In some cases, the impacted water had also elevated levels of contaminants above the EPA drinking and ecological standards, causing direct contamination of surface water and shallow groundwater. The study is based on systematic sampling and analysis of seepages, surface water, and shallow groundwater relative upstream background water and using sensitive geochemical fingerprints that allow the detection of contaminants that were originated from coal ash. We used the boron and strontium isotope fingerprints to delineate the source of contamination and verify their link to coal ash ponds. In North Carolina we used NC-DEQ database for groundwater samples collected and analyzed between 2010 and 2015. The data show that out of 165 monitoring wells, 65 were impacted with high boron levels and 49 had high contaminants levels that are typical of coal ash ponds. This is one of fist attempts to conduct a large scale evaluation of the risks of coal ash ponds to waterways and shallow groundwater in the southeast U.S. Duke press release is presented here. The paper was aired in WUNC (NPR) and WRAL and published in several media and news papers, including Winston Salem Journal, Charlotte Observer, Fredricksburg, Forbes, The Daily Progress, News and Observer, Undark, Environmental Leader, Atlanta Journal, Bay Journal.
May 18, 2016: Avner Vengosh visited NewTown in Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota and met with tribal and community college members to discuss the outcome of the study on oil brine spills in North Dakota and implications on the environment and human health. The meetings were covered by local media including Oil Patch Dispatch, Bismarck Tribune, and local TV stations – the KXnew and KMOT-TV . the presentation was recorded and presented by North Dakota Resource Council. For more on community empowerment and conversation see the article “Facing Fracking Fears, Tribal Advocate Finds Affirmation in Water Contaminant Study” by Ben Young Landis.
May 2, 2016: A new study that presents a new application for age-dating soil impacted by oil and gas wastewater spills was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. When Ra-bearing oil and gas wastewater is released to the environment, radium is retained to the impacted soil and sediments. The study presents three independent age-dating methods based on the decay and ingrowth of radium isotopes and their progeny: 226Ra/210Pb, 228Ra/226Ra, and 228Ra/228Th. The different time scales of decay and ingrowth of these isotopes provides a new tool that could enable scientists to distinguish spill derived from recent unconventional oil and gas operations from older spill events, originated from conventional oil and gas legacy. The study was reported in Duke press release, and published in several media outlets, including Science Daily, Science Codex, Environmental Research Web,
April 27, 2016: A new study on oil and gas wastewater spills in North Dakota was published in Environmental Science and Technology. This paper is the first to systematically examine the chemistry and quality of brine spills in areas of unconventional oil extraction in the Bakken region. The major take away points of this paper are (1) in addition to the high salts content, the Bakken produced waters have high levels of inorganic contaminants such as selenium, ammonium, and vanadium; (2) these inorganic contaminants are resilient in the environment and can be detected in spill water even a few years after the spill events; (3) the strontium isotope ratios of the Bakken brines are different from the composition of local surface water and groundwater and thus strontium isotopes can be used as a powerful tool to monitor and delineate brine spills in North Dakota; and (4) radium radionuclides are retained from the spill water to the soil and sediments in spill sites, causing accumulation of radium and decay products in the soil. The migration and dilution of the spill brines in the environment further intensify the radium mobilization to the soil, and high radium was observed in soil located downstream from the original spill sites. Duke press release is described here. Numerous media outlets reported the study, including Great Forks Herald, Bismarck Tribune, KFYR-TV, CBS News, ZME Science, Inside Climate, Science Daily, U.S. News and World Reports, Chemical & Engineering News, Billings Gazette, Oil Price, Digital Journal, Energy Voice, Eco-watch, TruthOut, , Alternet, the Dickinson Press, Petro Industry News,
January 2016: A new paper by Schlesinger and Vengosh entiled “Global Boron Cycle in the Anthropocene” was published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
December 2015: Avner Vengosh gave a presentation on the environmental effects of unconventional energy development in the Golan Height, Israel. Vengosh also visited a rig that is part of exploration that attempts to tap hydrocarbons from unconventional resources in the Golan Height.
December 3, 2015: A cover story in Energywire: Marcellus researchers expand focus to other fracking hot spots
October 14-15, 2015: The Second Water-Energy in China workshop was held in Duke Kunshan campus at Kunshan, China. More than 100 participants from China, the US, and Israel attended the workshop that addressed different topics — science, engineering, policy — related to the water-energy nexus in China. For more details on the workshop see here. For the program, list of speakers, and their presentation see the workshop web site.
September 20, 2015: Avner Vengosh gave a Plenary Keynote presentation on “An overview of the risks to water resources from unconventional energy exploration and hydraulic fracturing” at the opening night of the 15th EuCheM International Conference on Chemistry and the Environment, Leipzig, Germany.
September 15, 2015: A new study examines the water use and volume of flowback and produced water generated from hydraulic fracturing. The paper “Water footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing” was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. The study is the first to integrate several databases sources to generate a comprehensive evaluation of the water use, water use intensity (normalized to the energy utilized), flowback and produced water generation, and flowback and produced water intensity. Duke press release is posted here. The American Chemical Society press release is here. The study was reported by numerous news clips including Nature World News, R&D Magazine, Triangle Business Journal, High Country News, WaterWorld, and Natural Gas Report. The paper is posted here:Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing_EST_Letters.
The paper was selected for the cover page of Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
September 2, 2015: A new paper on the occurrence and distribution of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) was published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study provide systematic evaluation of the levels of radionuclides in coals from the three major basins in the US and their coal combustion residues (coal ash). The study established a formula to predict the levels of radium in coal ash based on the uranium and thorium contents of the parent coal. The study also explores the environmental and human health risks associated with the emission of coal ash particles with relatively elevated radium and lead-210 levels. Duke press release is presented here. The study was reported by numerous news clips including the Climate Progress, WNCN TV, Charlotte Observer, Winston-Salem Journal, Anence France Presse, RT, and Science World Report. The paper is posted here: NORM in coal and coal ash_EST
August 10, 2015: Avner Venter talks with Katie Burke on hydraulic fracturing and water quality. American Scientist, Spotlight, interview with Katie L. Burke. Audio Exclusive: An Interview with Avner Vengosh
July 29, 2015: Avner Vengosh talks on radioactivity in groundwater from North Carolina: Interviewed by Eileen Park, WNCN
July 13, 2015: Avner Vengosh Elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has been elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA). GSA fellowships are awarded annually to scientists who have been recognized by their peers as making significant contributions to the field of geology through published research, public outreach, and the training of graduate students. In selecting Vengosh for the honor, the GSA cited his “research contributions in isotope and environmental geochemistry, including seminal studies in the area of energy development and water quality” and his role as “an innovator in methodological development of boron isotope measurements and their use in solving hydrogeochemical and environmental problems.” A prolific researcher with more than 100 peer-reviewed studies to his credit, Vengosh is widely cited for his groundbreaking development of isotopic “fingerprinting” technologies that allow scientists to identify and measure water contaminants and track them to their source. His research has played a central role in assessing – and helping find solutions to – potential risks to water resources posed by a wide range of causes, including salinization; coal ash residue; oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing; oil and gas wastewater disposal; agricultural contamination; and mountaintop coal mining runoff. As part of his team’s research on the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, they have collected and analyzed more than 1,000 water samples from drinking water wells and surface water in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, California and North Dakota.Vengosh has also used his forensic tracers to identify the sources of natural radioactivity in groundwater supplies in the Middle East and radon in groundwater in the southeastern United States, and to identify links between naturally occurring water contaminants, local geology and human health in Ethiopia, Morocco and Vietnam.A study he led identifying high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in shale gas wastewater was named the best science paper of 2013 by the editors of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Another study, providing the first comprehensive review of potential risks to water resources posed by unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, was selected as one of the best peer-reviewed studies of 2014 by the editors of the same journal. In recognition of his expertise, Vengosh has twice been invited to testify before Congress on the water-quality impacts of coal ash contamination.
May 18-19, 2015: Avner Vengosh participated and presented at the National Academy of Science workshop on “Chemistry and Engineering of Shale Gas and Tight Oil Resource Development” at Washington, DC. For more information on the workshop see this link.
April 16, 2015: A critical review paper that provided the first comprehensive review of the potential risks to water resources posed by unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing has been selected as one of the best peer-reviewed papers of 2014 by the editors of the journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T). The paper “A Critical Review of the Risks to Water Resources from Unconventional Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States” was chosen as 2nd runner-up in the Environmental Policy category. It was selected for the honor from among more than 1,700 peer-reviewed papers published in ES&T in 2014. This is the second year in a row a paper by Vengosh’s team has been selected as one of ES&T’s top papers. The paper “Impacts of shale gas wastewater disposal on water quality in western Pennsylvania” was selected as the journal’s Best Science Paper of 2013. For more information see Duke Press release. The paper is posted here: ES&T Review on hydraulic fracturing.
January 21, 2015: A new paper on the direct measurement of the boron isotope fractionation factor between boron species was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letter. The boron isotopic composition of calcium carbonate skeletons is a promising proxy method for reconstructing paleo-ocean pH and atmospheric CO2 from the geological record. Although the boron isotope methodology has been used extensively over the past two decades to determine ancient ocean-pH, the actual value of the boron isotope fractionation factor (epsilon) between the two main dissolved boron species, 11B(OH)3 and 10B(OH)4–, has remained uncertain. The new study provides, for the first time, an independent empirical fractionation factor (26.0 ±1.0 permil; 25◦C), determined by direct measurements of B(OH)3 in seawater and other solutions. Boric acid was isolated by preferential passage through a reverse osmosis membrane under controlled pH conditions. The revised methodology lays the foundation for a more accurate determination of ocean paleo-pH through time. The paper is posted here: Boron isotope fractionation factor
January 14, 2015: A new study on the occurrence of iodide, bromide, and ammonium in oil and gas wastewater was published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study shows high levels of iodide and ammonium in both hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced water from conventional oil and gas wells. The high correlation of ammonium to chloride suggest that these contaminants are geogenic and their presence in formation waters is controlled by the composition of the formation rocks. Elevated levels of iodide and ammonium (up to 50 times the EPA regulation for ammonium) were found also in effluents that are discharge to waterways from there disposal sites in PA and a spill in WV that cause direct contamination of the associated streams and rivers. Duke press release of the study is posted here. The study was reported by numerous news clips including the Daily Climate, Think Progress, Scientific American, Science news, Akron Beacon Journal, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, News and Observer, Science News, Water World, Digital Journal, Newsroom America, Eagleford Texas, Salon, Environmental Working Group, and Charleston Gazette. The paper is posted here: es504654n_iodide and ammonium
NSF reports on this study by the news clip (see the second item).
January 9, 2015: A new study on the occurrence of arsenic in groundwater and the exposure of local residents in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam was published in Science of Total Environment. The study shows high level of arsenic (up to 1,000 ppb) in groundwater adjacent to the Mekong River. High arsenic was found particularly in reduced and low-saline groundwater. Arsenic content in nails collected from local residents was significantly correlated to As in drinking water (R=0.56, p<0.001). Survey data show that the ratio of arsenic in nail to arsenic in water varied among residents, reflecting differential arsenic bioaccumulation in specific exposed sub-populations. The paper is posted here Arsenic exposure in Mekong Delta.
December 16, 2014: A new study on the use of boron and strontium isotopes as tracers for the impact of coal ash contaminants on the environment was published in Environmental Science & Technology. The study examined the boron and strontium isotopic fingerprints of coal ash originated from coals of different basins in the USA as well as specific case studies where coal ash has impacted the environment: the TVA coal ash spill in TN, the discharge of coal ash effluents to waterways in NC and impacted water resources. The study found the integration of boron and strontium isotopes with water geochemistry could provide a unique and powerful tool for delineating and quantifying the impact of coal ash on the environment. Duke press release of the paper is here. The paper is posted here: es503746v_coal ash tracers.
November 7, 2014: Duke University and Duke Kunshan University (DKU) water-energy workshop, Fairmont Hotel, Kunshan, China, chaired by Avner Vengosh and Marc Deshusses. Over 50 participants attend the water-energy workshop held along Yangcheng Lake, in Kunshan. The workshop addressed key interdisciplinary issues related to water and energy development in China, including oil and gas, coalbed methane, and unconventional shale gas and hydraulic fracturing. The workshop presented data on water availability and quality in China, energy development, environmental effects of the different energy development particularly, derived from hydraulic fracturing, water law, water policy, and treatment technologies. The workshop aimed to explore possible research networks and collaboration of Duke and DKU faculty with Chinese colleagues engaged with water and energy research. Speakers included scientists from different academic institutions in China and Duke faculty addressing both scientific, engineering, and policy aspects. For the program and details see here.
October 20, 2014: A new study of tracing hydraulic fracturing fluids in the environment by using boron and lithium isotopes was published in Environmental Science and Technology. This is the first study to use boron and lithium isotopic fingerprints for delineating hydraulic fracturing fluids in contaminated water and distinguish their impacts from other sources of contamination. The distinguished geochemical signature of flowback water is hypothesized to be derived from mobilization of boron and lithium from exchangeable sites on clay minerals during hydraulic fracturing process. Duke press release of the paper is here. NSF funded the project and also issued a press release. The study was reported by numerous news clips including News and Records, Think Progress, Laboratory Equipment, Headlines and Global news, Environmental leaders, News and Observer, Water World, and Earth Magazine. The paper is posted es5032135.
September 24, 2014: A new study on the potential formation of highly carcinogenic disinfection byproduct from hydraulic fracturing fluids diluted by river water was published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study shows that even a small fraction, as low as 0.01 percent up to 0.1 percent of hydraulic fracturing fluids in disinfected river water that is used for drinking could result in the formation of disinfection byproducts in drinking water utilities located downstream from disposal or spill sites of hydraulic fracturing fluids. ACS press release of the study is here. The paper is post here.es5028184
September 15, 2014: A new Duke study on stray gas contamination in drinking water wells located near shale gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania and Texas was published in the Proceedings of national Academy of Science of the USA. The new study established new geochemical methodology based on the integration of noble gas geochemistry and hydrocarbons ratios and isotopes to distinguish between naturally occurring methane flux to shallow aquifers and methane contamination derived directly from leaking from shale gas wells. The paper is posted here: PNAS-2014-Darrah-1322107111. More information on the paper is in Duke press release. The study was covered by hundreds of news clips from all over the world including the New York Times, USA Today, BBC, the Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Bloomberg, the Guardian, Washington Post, Weather ford Democrat, Dallas morning News, Public News Service , Salon, as well as radio stations including NPR WUNC, the John Gambling Show, NYC, and Hoppy Kercheval of Metronews, West Virginia Radio Network.
August 8-12, 2014: Future hydraulic fracturing and shale gas exploration in North Carolina: The News and Observer article on research at Duke on hydraulic fracturing and editorial on the lack of North Carolina officials to use the scientific data. Also Vengosh’s interview to Capital Tonight, Time Warner Cable News is linked here.
July 29, 2014: A Response to Comment on “High Naturally Occurring Radioactivity in Fossil Groundwater from the Middle East” was published in Environmental Science and Technology (es501140b)
June 26 – July 7, 2014: Avner Vengosh visit to South Africa as part of a water-quality baseline research at the Karoo Basin. Dr. Vengosh gave public presentations at the University of Cape Town and University of Pretoria and also participated in two-days workshop entitled “Review of risks to water resources from unconventional gas exploration and production in South Africa and water science plan for unconventional gas development (Workshop-outcomes-unconventional-gas-risks to water).
May 1, 2014: Avner Vengosh presents a keynote talk at the EGU meeting in Vienna, Austria: “Risks to Water Resources from Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in the United Sates”
March 7, 2014: A new paper “A Critical Review of the Risks to Water Resources from Unconventional Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States” was published in Environmental Science &Technology. This paper provides a critical review of all available literature on the possible risks of water resources from shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing. This is one of the few attempts to provide a comprehensive and objective evaluation of the state of knowledge with respect the possible effects of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing on water resources in the US. (es405118y)
March 6, 2014: Our study on the environmental effects of shale Gas wastewater Named ES&T’s Best Science Paper for 2013 (!). Out of 1,600 papers published in ES&T during 2013, the journal editors selected our paper. The ES&T announcement and interview with the paper authors Nat Warner and Avner Vengosh is presented here. Duke press release is presented here. A link to the paper is provided here.
February 5, 2014: Avner Vengosh giving a talk on the “Myths and Reality of Water Contamination from Fracking” at Duke Center for International Studies.
December 31, 2013: The paper on elevated level of radioactivity in hydtraulic fracturing fluids and radium accumulation on sediments in a disposal site in PA was selected for the Top 11 Energy & Environmental Infographics of 2013.
December 24, 2013: A new study on the beneficial use of blending hydraulic fracturing fluids with acid mine drainage shows that much of the radioactivity of flowback water from shale gas would be reduced due to co-precipitation of Sr-barite minerals. The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology es_HF-AMD mix. See Duke Press Release. The study was reported Nature World News, NPR-PA, ABC-news, NSF news, Brazil Sun, and Water World.
November 5, 2013: A new study on arsenic occurrence in toenail keratin suggests that a person’s exposure to arsenic in drinking water can be detected by simple measurements of arsenic in the nails. The study was published in Journal Of Exposure Science And Environmental Epidemiology. See Duke press release of the study.
October 2, 2013: A new study finds elevated levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek. The study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. See Duke Press release. The study was reported by ACS web site, USA-Today, The Guardian Bloomberg Scientific American the Voice of Russia radio and many others. A copy of the paper is here.EST_impacts of shale gas wastewater
August 15, 2013: A new study characterizes the carbon, sulfur and strontium isotopic imprints of effluents from mountaintop mining and their affect on streams in West Virginia. The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology. See Duke press release. The study was reported by Appalachian Voices. Get paper here (EST_MTM isotopes)
June 24, 2013: A new study finds Higher Levels of Stray Gases Found in Water Wells Near Shale Gas Sites. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS). See Duke press release. Get paper (PNAS_Jacksonetal2013).
May 30, 2013: Avner Vengosh presents “Risks of shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing to water resources in the US” at “Workshop on Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development” hosted by the National Academy of Science. The presentation See presentation here.
May 15, 2013: Study Finds No Evidence of Water Contamination from Shale Gas Drilling in Arkansas published in Applied Geochemistry . See Duke press release. Also AP report published in the Washington Post.
February 16, 2013: Vengosh interviewed by WCNC-TV on water contamination by coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
November 6, 2012: Geological Society America meeting, Pardee Keynote Sessions – Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts on Water Resources in the United States , Charlotte, North Carolina.
Duke team at GSA 2012; From left: Cidney Christie (MEM, 2012), Alissa While (B.Sc., 2011), Brit Merola (PhD student), Nat Warner (PhD student), David Vinson (PhD, 2011), Avner Vengosh (EOS faculty), and Tom Darrah (Research Scientist)
November 5, 2012: Radioactive Water Threatens Middle East . Spiegel Online International, Germany.
October 18, 2012: Avner Vengosh to Testify on Environmental Impacts of Energy Production at Oct. 18 Congressional Briefing (Abstract_energy_AERC_Vengosh ). The extend presentation was presented at the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC) symposium and posted on-line.
October 15, 2012: High Levels of Coal Ash Contaminants Found in N.C. Waters: A new paper entitled “The Impact of Coal Combustion Residue Effluent on Water Resources: A North Carolina Example” was published in Environmental Science and Technology (see paper here).
July 9, 2012: A new paper entitled ” Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS). One of the many media coverage and an interview with WRAL-TV is presented here.
March 10, 2012: Fieldwork to study water quality in Vietnam
Seminar at the Faculty of Environmental Science, University of Science, Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
March 18, 2012: Fracking in New Zealand: Vengosh interviewed to 60 minutes New Zealand.
Vengosh presents the fracking research at the marae (welcome) Māori ceremony; Gisbone, North Island, New Zealand
January 9, 2012: Reynolds Theater, Bryan Center, Duke University
Environmental and social implications of Hydraulic fracturing and shale gas drilling in the United States: An integrative workshop for the evaluation of the state of science and policy (frackingflyer3rdP)
October 9-12, 2011: Presentations at the 2011 American Geological Society (GSA) meeting (Minneapolis, MN):
Vengosh, A., Merola, B.R., Ruhl, L., Warner, N., Lindberg, T., Di Giulio, R.T. (2011) Strontium isotope variations as a proxy for selenium contamination from mountaintop mining. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 43, No. 5, p. 345.
Ruhl. L., Vengosh, A., Dwyer, G. (2011). Geochemical charactarization of the environmental impacts of coal combustion products: lessons from the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 409.
Warner, N. Osborn, S., Jackson, R., Vengosh, A. (2011). Boron and strontium isotopes as sensitive tracers for indicating potential shallow groundwater contamination from Marcellus Formation brines. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 566.
Osborn, S., Warner, N., Vengosh, A., Jackson, R. (2011). Dissolved gas geochemistry of shallow groundwater systems in Pennsylvania and New York, associated with natural gas extraction. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 567.
September 30, 2011 – PhD students Laura Ruhl and Brittany Merola win international awards
(more about IAGC fellow see here).
Vengosh receives the Fellow of International Association of Geochemistry Award award at the International Geochemistry Symposium – Applied Isotope Geochemisty (AIG-9), Tarragona, Spain, September 2011.