"Brine spills from oil development in western North Dakota are releasing toxins into soils and waterways, sometimes at levels exceeding federal water quality standards, scientists reported Wednesday.
Samples taken from surface waters affected by waste spills in recent years in the state's Bakken oilfield region turned up high levels of lead, ammonium, selenium and other contaminants, Duke University researchers said. Additionally, they found that some spills had tainted land with radium, a radioactive element.
Long-term monitoring of waters downstream from spill sites is needed to determine what risks the pollution might pose for human health and the environment, geochemistry professor Avner Vengosh said. But the study revealed 'clear evidence of direct water contamination' from oil development using the method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, he said, describing the problem as 'widespread and persistent.'
Wastewater spills are a longstanding yet largely overlooked side effect of oil and gas production that worsened during the nation's recent drilling boom, when advances in fracking technology enabled North Dakota's daily output to soar from 4.2 million gallons in 2007 to 42 million gallons in 2014."