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White Paper Gary

Post: March 10 2009 in: Produced Waters

WhitePaper

Proposed NPDESPermit for Oil and Gas Exploration, Development, & Production FacilitiesLocated Within Territorial Seas of Louisiana (LAG260000)

Preparedfor the

LouisianaEnvironmental Action Network (LEAN)

 

 

By

 

EmilyBrown, M.S., Jackie Travers, B.S.

and MarvinResnikoff, Ph.D.

RadioactiveWaste Management Associates

 

March 2009

Radioactive Waste ManagementAssociates

526 W. 26thStreet #517

New York, NY10001

LEAN White Paper onNPDES Permit LAG260000*

 

 

Table ofContents

1. Oil and Gas Exploration and Productionin Louisiana. 2

1.2 Oil and Gas Production in Louisiana. 3

2. NPDES Permit Program.. 4

3. Produced Water 6

3.1 Discharge Limitations on Produced Water 8

3.2 Properties of Produced Water 9

3.3 Constituents of Produced Water 10

3.3.1 Oil and Grease. 11

3.3.2 Organic Compounds. 12

3.3.3 Inorganic Compounds. 14

3.3.4 Metals. 16

3.3.5 Naturally Occurring RadioactiveMaterials (NORM) 17

4. Toxicity of Produced Water on AquaticOrganisms. 19

4.1 Bioaccumulation and Toxicity. 19

4.1.1 Macro Invertebrates. 20

4.1.2 Mollusks. 21

4.1.3 Crustaceans. 23

4.1.4 Fish. 24

4.1.5 Other Marine Life. 24

4.2 Human Consumption. 24

5. Discharges Other than Produced Water 25

6. Changes from Original NPDES GeneralPermit LAG260000. 26

7. Criticisms of NPDES General Permit LAG260000. 27

8. Incomplete Record/Missing Documents. 29

9. Recommended Changes to Final NPDES General Permit LAG260000. 30

 


LEAN White Paper onNPDES Permit LAG260000*

 

Proposed WaterDischarge Permit LAG260000

Underthe proposed water discharge permit LAG260000, oil and gas companies would beallowed to discharge produced water and other waste streams into Louisianaterritorial seas.  The territorial seasare open seas that extend up to 3 miles from the Louisiana coast.  The proposed NPDES permit would coverdischarges from all existing and proposed wells that tie into a singleproduction facility, and would encompass all discharges, including producedwater.  In this white paper we discussthe history of the proposed permit and critically review the properties andpotential impact of the proposed discharges. We offer recommendations to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality(LDEQ), including strong support for an environmental impact statement toassess the impact of the proposed action. A large number of important documents requested of LDEQ in order toallow a full examination of the proposed permit have not been provided.

1. Oil and Gas Exploration and Production in Louisiana

Theterritorial seas of Louisiana contain vast amounts of underground oil and gasreservoirs.  The oil and gas exploration andproduction (E&P) process in Louisiana territorial seas generates millionsof gallons of hazardous waste streams each day. These waste streams are disposed of by discharge into the territorialseas.  There are currently 118 oil andgas E&P facilities operating in the territorial seas of Louisiana, and itis anticipated that 150 new wells will be constructed in upcoming years (Kasparand Wilson, 2009). 

1.1  History of Regulation of Oil and Gas Discharges

Thestate of Louisiana has an extensive history of regulating the discharge of oiland gas

E&Pwastes.  Louisiana began to express concernover the effects oil and gas E&P wastes have on the environment and humanhealth as far back as the 1920s.   However,the history of regulating oil and gas field wastes in Louisiana shows that as theoil industry grew, regulations against the discharge of oil field wastes becamemore lenient.

 

TheDepartment of Conservation promulgated stringent regulations against the dischargeof oil field wastes in Louisiana in the early 1920s.  Through Act Number 133 of Louisiana StateLegislation, the Department of Conservation established regulations against thedisposal of oil field waste within the waters of Louisiana.  The Act stated that it was “unlawful and amisdemeanor for any…corporation or any person acting for himself or for anyoneelse to knowingly and willfully empty or drain into or permit to be drainedfrom any pumps, reservoirs, wells, or oil fields into any of the naturalstreams of Louisiana any oil, salt water, or noxious or poisonous gases orsubstances in quantities sufficient to destroy the fish in said streams.” 

Accompanyingthese regulations were strict penalties to be imposed upon any person orcorporation in violation of this act.  Monetaryfines ranged from no less than $100 to $2,000 in 1924 dollar values.  This is equivalent to  $1,260 to $25,210 in 2008 dollars.  Violators of this act could also be subjectedto a prison sentence of no less than thirty days.  Each and every day this act was in violation bya particular person or corporation was treated as a separate offense. 

TheLouisiana Stream Control Commission (LSCC) is a state agency that was created in1940 to better control the discharges of oil field wastes within theterritorial jurisdiction of the state.  The territorial jurisdiction of any stateincludes all land within its boundaries, all rivers, lakes, and any other bodyof water entirely within its boundaries, all bays or inlets on its coast whosemouth is not more than six miles across, and the seas that border the state’scoast for a distance of three miles seaward. The three mile distance was originally adopted by states because it wasthought that this was the most extreme distance a cannon could travel (Putney,1908).  Therefore, the three mile distanceincluded in this regulation and every regulation regarding territorial seasthereafter was not determined under the consideration of environmental orpublic health. 

In1940, under House Bill Number 994, Act Number 367 of Louisiana StateLegislation, the LSCC gained control of the streams, waterways, and coastalwaters of Louisiana.  The LSCC acquiredcontrol of these water bodies to “prohibit the harmful pollution of any watersof the state and the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico within theterritorial jurisdiction of the State of Louisiana.”  Under this Act, LSCC regulated both publicand private waste disposal into any of the lakes, rivers and streams of thestate or any tributaries or drains flowing into any of the aforementionedbodies of water within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Louisianafor “the prevention of pollution tending to destroy fish life, or to beinjurious to the public health or the public welfare of other aquatic life orwild or domestic animals and fowls.”

Severalother agencies played a role in regulating oil and gas field wastes dischargedin the state of Louisiana.  In the late1930’s, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries established a Water PollutionControl Division which monitored the State’s water quality.  In the 1960’s the National EnvironmentalProtection Act established the Environmental Protection Agency which oversawstate environmental regulations.  In1972, the Louisiana Governor formed the Governor’s Council on EnvironmentalQuality, and LDEQ, the agency that still regulates oil and gas field wastedischarges into public water bodies of Louisiana, was officially created in1983 (LDEQ, 2008). 

 

1.2 Oil and Gas Production in Louisiana

Oiland gas E&P in Louisiana peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s.  By 1967, there were 31,051 operating wells inLouisiana.  By 1979, the number of operatingwells in Louisiana had decreased to 20,898 wells.  During the period from 1979 to 1986, thenumber of operating oil wells in Louisiana increased again by an annual averagerate of 3.4 percent, but the number of operating wells in Louisiana has slowlydeclined since then.  As of 2004, thenumber of operating wells in Louisiana was about 61 percent of the state’s peakin 1967. ( Dismukes et al., 2004)

Thetrend of natural gas operating wells in Louisiana followed a slightly differentpath than that of oil wells.  In 1960,there were about 6,000 operating wells in Louisiana, and the number ofoperating natural gas wells increased gradually from 1960 to 1978 at an averageannual rate of 3.2 percent.  In 1978, theNatural Gas Policies Act was passed, leading to an exceptional increase in thenumber of operating wells up to 1985. Between 1985 and 2000, the number of natural gas wells decreased byalmost 10 percent. (Dismukes et al.,2004) 

Theincrease in oil and natural gas wells in Louisiana during the 1960s and 1970s directlycorrelated with the discoveries by major oil companies at the time.  In 1946, Shell Oil Company discovered oilreservoirs in Louisiana and Texas (Shell Oil Company, 1998).  In 1963, Humble Oil, a predecessor of ExxonCompany, invented 3-D seismic technology that revolutionized the ability for oilcompanies to search for oil and gas.  In1966, Mobil Oil Corporation was formed, which directly led to the rapidexpansion of Mobil oil wells throughout Louisiana.  In 1975, Mobil Oil Corporation helpedcomplete the world’s first concrete offshore production platform.  Exxon Corporation emerged from JerseyStandard in 1972, leading to the spread of Exxon oil wells throughout Louisiana.(ExxonMobil Corporation, 2007)  Increasedoil and natural gas production in Louisiana led to an increase in oil and gas E&Pwaste streams, thus increasing the volumes of waste discharged to theterritorial seas of Louisiana.

2. NPDES Permit Program

LDEQhad issued a general permit to all facilities discharging oil and gas E&Pwastes from offshore platforms to regulate the wastes discharged into Louisianaterritorial seas by oil and gas facilities. This general permit expired on June 30, 1984 and a new general permitwas not reissued to oil and gas facilities in the territorial seas until November4, 1997.

Today,all existing and proposed oil and gas facilities located within the territorialseas of Louisiana are required to obtain a Nationally Pollutant DischargeElimination System (NPDES) permit before any oil and gas E&P wastedischarges to the territorial seas are permitted.  The NPDES permit program was initiated by theUS Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1972 under the Clean Water Act tocontrol water pollution by regulated point sources that discharge pollutantsinto waters of the United States.  Pointsources are those that are visible and discrete, such as pipes, sewers, orman-made ditches.  If regulated pointsources discharge effluent directly to surface waters, operators are requiredto first obtain a NPDES permit.  TheNPDES permit program is most often administered by authorized states withoversight from the EPA.  Beginning August1996, the Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) was approved by the U.S.EPA to administer the NPDES program in Louisiana. 

Thefirst NPDES General Permit for Discharge From New and Existing Sources in theOffshore Subcategory of the Oil and Gas Extraction Category for the TerritorialSeas of Louisiana (hereafter referred to as NPDES General Permit LAG260000)became effective on November 4, 1997, and was issued to all facilities dischargingproduced water and other oil and gas E&P waste into Louisiana territorialseas.  NPDES General Permit LAG260000 waswritten to address the national effluent limitation guidelines promulgated onMarch 4, 1993 and to reissue the general permit for discharges in theterritorial seas of Louisiana that expired on June 30, 1984. 

Onemonth after assuming authority to administer NPDES permits, in September 1996,the State of Louisiana requested that several changes be made to the NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 in addition to the national effluent limitationguidelines promulgated on March 4, 1993. Changes made to NPDES General Permit LAG260000 were the following:

  1. Language was added showing that new sources are covered under the general permit.
  2. Critical dilution tables for toxicity limitations were recalculated and expanded to account for additional discharge rates and pipe diameters. That is, rather than specific concentration limits from each outfall, mixing criteria were employed.
  3. Equations were added in place of the tables for determining the limitations for benzene, lead, phenols, and thallium.
  4. A period of six months was given to come into compliance with the water quality based limits for produced water.
  5. Model input parameters for diffuser modeling were updated based on site specific data.
  6. Produced water discharges were prohibited in some instances in accordance with State regulations listed in LAC 33:IX.708.C.2.c.iii,iv, and v.
  1. LAC 33:IX.708.C.2.c.iiistates that the discharge of produced water directly onto any intermittentlyexposed sediment surface is prohibited.
  2. LAC 33:IX.708.C.2.c.ivstates that produced water shall not be discharged within the boundaries of anystate or federal wildlife management area, refuge, or park or into any waterbody determined by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to be ofspecial ecological significance.
  3. LAC 33:IX.708.C.2.c.vstates that produced water shall not be discharged within 1,300 feet (viawater) of an active oyster lease, live natural oyster or other molluscan reef,designated oyster seed bed, or sea grass bed. No produced water shall be discharged in a manner that, at any time,facilitates the incorporation of significant quantities of hydrocarbons orradionuclides into sediment or biota. 
  1. Biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids limitations and monitoring requirements were added for sanitary waste water discharges under 2,500 gallons per day, and chlorine limitations were added for sanitary waste water discharges from platforms which are manned by nine or fewer persons. 
  2. 24-hour requirements were changed to reflect State Regulations.
  3. Operators were required to submit notification of intent to be covered and discharge monitoring reports to the State instead of the US EPA.
  4. Louisiana’s field designation was required to be included in notifications of intent to be covered.
  5. Permittees were no longer required to apply for the reissued permit six months prior to the expiration date. 

NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 regulated discharges from eight different outfalls on oiland gas platforms located in Louisiana territorial seas.  For each discharge point, the eight outfallsregulated by NPDES General Permit LAG260000 were discharges of deck drainage,well treatment, completion, and workover fluids, sanitary waste, domesticwaste, hydrostatic test wastewater, miscellaneous discharges of wastewaters,seawater and freshwater which have been chemically treated, and produced water.  Produced water discharges make up the largestvolume of waste generated by the oil and gas E&P process and are by far themost harmful to the biota inhabiting the water column and sediments of theLouisiana territorial seas. 

NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 expired on December 3, 2002. Currently, 118 facilitiesare still operating under this expired permit. In 2008, the state of Louisiana proposed a revised permit, GeneralPermit No. LAG260000 for Oil & Gas Exploration, Development, &Production Facilities Located within the Territorial Seas of Louisiana,(hereafter referred to as Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000) in place of theexpired version. This discharge permit would be reissued to the 118 operating facilitiesin the Louisiana territorial sea and the 150 new wells anticipated by LDEQ(Kaspar and Wilson, 2009).  The dischargelimitation guidelines for produced water discharges have not changed betweenthe expired NPDES General Permit LAG260000 and its most recent proposed revision,except in one important instance that we discuss below.

3. Produced Water

                 

Producedwater is the largest volume of waste stream generated by the oil and gas E&Pprocess.  Hydrocarbon reservoirs fromwhich oil and gas are produced also contain water, known as formation water.  Formation water is found in hydrocarbonreservoirs due to underground flow above or below the hydrocarbon zone, flowfrom within the hydrocarbon zone, or flow that is injected into the reservoirduring the oil and gas E&P process.  Figure1 depicts a typical hydrocarbon reservoir with oil, gas, and formation waterpresent.  As oil and gas is extractedfrom the reservoir, formation water is extracted with it; this is whenformation water becomes produced water.  When produced water is brought to the surface, it carries with itdissolved solids and other compounds that may be present in the hydrocarbonreservoir.

Figure 1.  Typical Oil and Gas Reservoir (SEED, 2008).

Tomaintain the pressure when oil and gas are extracted from the hydrocarbonreservoir, water is injected back into the reservoir as oil and gas are pumpedout.  Injecting water back into thereservoir also serves the purpose of sweeping the reservoir by forcing theremaining underground oil towards the well.  Figure 2 displays an example of how water isinjected back into the underground hydrocarbon reservoir.  Like formation water, injected water can alsoflow through the hydrocarbon reservoir and later be extracted as producedwater.  Injected water often containschemical additives used in the oil and gas production process.  Additives used in the production processinclude corrosion inhibitors, scale inhibitors, biocides, emulsion breakers andclarifiers, along with many other chemical solvents.

Figure 2. Injecting Water into aHydrocarbon Reservoir (Caudle, 2009).  

Asproduced water is pumped to the surface, it transports naturally occurringradioactive materials present in the hydrocarbon reservoir.  It is well known that both uranium andthorium and their progeny are naturally present in the underground geologicformations of Louisiana from which oil and gas are produced.  Uranium and thorium are not very soluble, buttheir daughter products, radium-226 and radium-228, are soluble in water andbecome mobilized by formation water (US EPA, 1993b).  Thus as formation water is brought to thesurface as produced water, radium-226 and radium-228 are brought to the surfaceas well.

3.1 Discharge Limitations on Produced Water

TheUS Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 10 barrels of producedwater are yielded for each barrel of oil that is produced (US EPA, 2008b).  Produced waters generated by offshore oilwells in Louisiana are treated and then discharged into Louisiana’s territorialseas.  Approximately 3.4 million barrelsof produced water are discharged into the Gulf of Mexico each day by offshoreoil and gas facilities (Boesch and Rabalais, 1985; Doyle et al., 1994).

Inthe category of produced water, discharge limitation criteria have not changedbetween the expired General Permit LAG260000 and its most recent draft revision.  Table 1 displays the discharge limitationsplaced on produced water constituents under Draft General Permit LAG260000 andhow often these constituent levels must be monitored. 

 

Table 1.  Effluent Limitations and MonitoringRequirements for Discharges of Produced Water in Louisiana Territorial Seas.

Effluent

Discharge Limitation

Monitoring Frequency

 

Daily Maximum

Monthly Average

 

Flow

-----

-----

Once per Month

Oil and Grease

42 ppm

29 ppm

Once per Month

Toxicity

must show no observable effects for the toxicity endpoint portion of the 7-day chronic toxicity test

Dependent on Critical Dilution Value – Ranges from Once per Month to Once per Year

Benzene

(220.8 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

(93 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

Dependent on Monthly Average Discharge  Value – Ranges from Once per 2 weeks to Once per Quarter

Total Lead

(36.7 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

(15.5 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

Total Phenol

(478 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

(201 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

Total Thallium

19.6 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

(8.3 ppb / Critical Dilution) * 100

Radium-226

-----

-----

Dependent on Critical Dilution Value – Ranges from

Once per Month to Once per Year

Radium-228

-----

-----

*From Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Draft NPDES General PermitNumber LAG260000

Asseen in Table 1, critical dilution is taken into account when determining themaximum allowable amounts of almost all produced water constituents dischargedinto territorial seas.  As produced wateris discharged into the open sea, chemical constituents become diluted.  Critical dilution factors as defined in thedraft permit are functions of the rate at which produced water is released froma discharge pipe, the size of the discharge pipe, and the distance of thedischarge pipe from the seafloor.  Criticaldilution factors were developed for a range of discharge pipes and theirdistances from the seafloor, and these critical dilution factors are used todetermine the allowable produced water daily maximum and monthly averagedischarges for each individual well operating in the territorial seas ofLouisiana. 

Itshould be noted that under Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000, there is nodischarge limitation for radium-226 and radium-228 concentrations in producedwaters, or for the total radium released each year.  The discharge of these constituents isimportant because radium-226 and radium-228 are radioactive materials that areknown to concentrate in edible marine life and to cause cancer.  According to the Draft NPDES General PermitLAG260000, dischargers only have to record their daily and monthly radium-226and radium-228 discharges, regardless of how high the concentrations maybe.  If discharging facilities complywith their appropriate radium-226 and radium-228 monitoring schedules for onecontinuous year, facilities are then only required to monitor for radium-226and radium-228 once a year, every year thereafter (LDEQ, 1997).

Theuse of mixing criteria rather than a specific concentration in the effluent ormaximum allowable release amounts per year is an important issue.  Under the proposed general permit, oil andgas companies are permitted to dispose of any quantity of radium-226 and radium-228as long as the concentrations are lowered by sufficient mixing once dischargedinto seawater.  Since the proposed generalpermit allows any number of new wells to be installed without a review of theirenvironmental impacts, large quantities of radium-226 and radium-228 can bereleased into Louisiana territorial waters. The Louisiana territorial sea is relatively shallow and has a smalltidal range, thus there is not much mixing energy available.  It is very unlikely that total mixing and sufficientdilution of radium-226 and radium-228 discharged to the territorial sea will occur.  That is, radium -226 and radium-228 will accumulatein increased amounts in the marine life consumed by humans.

 

3.2 Properties of Produced Water

Thecomposition of produced water varies depending on the material with which it isbeing extracted, that is to say, produced water generated by gas wells differsfrom produced water generated by oil wells. The largest difference between these types is that produced water fromgas wells contains condensed water in addition to formation water.  Produced water from gas wells also contains agreater amount of aromatic hydrocarbons than those from oil operations.  A study conducted in the North Sea found thatproduced waters from gas wells also tend to have higher pH and chloride levelsthan produced waters from oil wells.  Altogether,waters from gas production operations have been found to be about 10 times moretoxic than that from oil production operations. (Jacobs et al., 1992)

Ingeneral, treated produced water from both oil and gas operations containhydrocarbons, other organic and inorganic chemicals, dissolved salts, metals,and radioactive materials (Neff, 2002).  These compounds are in produced water becausethey were present in formation water or because they were used as productionchemicals during the oil and gas E&P process (Jacobs, et al., 1992).  Theconstituents of produced water from offshore wells can be in a variety ofphysical states including solution, suspension, emulsion, adsorbed particles,and particulates (Tibbetts et al.,1992).  Figure 3 depicts the fate of theconstituents of produced water after being discharged into seawater. 

Figure3. Fate of produced water constituents afterbeing discharged into the sea (Neff, 2002).

 

3.3 Constituents of Produced Water

Thereare over fifty individual constituents currently found in produced watersdischarged into the Gulf of Mexico. Table 2 displays these constituents and the compound class to which theybelong. The following sections of this paper describe the different classes ofconstituents found in produced waters and the effects they can have on aquaticlife in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Primary Constituentsfound in Produced Waters Discharged into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil and Grease

Inorganic Compounds

Organic Compounds

                    Ammonia

        Monocyclic Aromatic  Hydrocarbons

                    Bicarbonates

Benzene

      Bromides

Benzoic Acid

                     Sulfates

Chlorobenzene

 Sulfides

Di-n-butyl phthalate

Metals

Ethylbenzene

Aluminum

Isopropylbenzene

Arsenic

n-Propylbenzene

Barium

p-chloro-m-cresol

Boron

Toluene

Cadmium

Total Xylenes

Calcium

1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene

Chloride

            1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene

Chromium

            2-butanone

Copper

            2-4-Dimethylphenol

Iron

       Aliphatic Hydrocarbons

Lead

           n-alkanes

Manganese

       Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Mercury

Acenaphthene

Molybdenum

Anthracene

Nickel

Benzo(a)anthracene

Potassium

Benzo(a)pyrene

Sodium

Crysene

Thallium

Dibenzothiophenes

Titanium

Fluoranthene

Vanadium

Fluorene

Zinc

Naphthalenes

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

                    Phenanthrenes

                    Radium-226

                    Phenols

    Radium-228

                    Pyrene

*From Veil et al. (2004), Neff (2002),EPA (1993), and St. Pé (1990).

3.3.1 Oil and Grease

Therelease of oil and grease into the territorial sea of Louisiana can havedetrimental effects on the living organisms that inhabit the sea.  Oil and grease droplets in produced water aremost often 4-6 microns in size, and most produced water treatment systems cannotremove droplets smaller than 10 microns in size (Bansal and Caudle, 1999).  Thus, it is inevitable that some amount ofoil and grease in produced water is discharged. Oil and grease can create potentially toxic environments for the ocean’sbenthic community, or bottom-dwellers, which live and feed on seafloor sediments.  Oysters, known to be keystone benthic species,contribute to improved water quality of the ocean and help to provide habitatfor an extensive number of marine plants and animals.  Oysters depend on reefs and sediment on theocean floor to live, grow, and spawn, and oil and grease contamination amongtheir substrate prevents oysters from carrying out their ecosystem functions.   Theeconomy of Louisiana also depends on oysters and other commercial shellfishthat are affected by oil and grease contamination.  A decrease in shellfish production or qualityin the territorial sea could present serious economic consequences to the Stateof Louisiana.  The Draft NPDES GeneralPermit LAG260000 sets the daily and monthly maximum limits of oil and grease indischarged produced waters as 42 and 29 ppm, respectively, however dischargersare only required to monitor their oil and grease discharges once per month. 

 

3.3.2 Organic Compounds

Organiccompounds in produced water are usually discharged into territorial seasbecause they are highly soluble and cannot easily be removed.  Organic compounds are those that primarilycontain carbon and hydrogen.  Many of theorganic compounds found in produced water come from oil and gas reservoirs orfrom treatment chemicals such as biocides, emulsion breakers, and corrosioninhibitors.  The toxicity of thehydrocarbons founds in produced water is known to be additive, therefore acombination of hydrocarbons in produced water can provide a severely toxicenvironment for aquatic life (Glickman, 1998). Some organic compounds can be lethal to aquatic life at levels as low as0.1 parts per million (ppm), and concentrations of the most soluble organiccompounds have been measured to be greater than 5,000 ppm in some producedwaters (Ali et al., 1999). 

 

3.3.2.1.  Monocyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Monocyclicaromatic hydrocarbons are organic compounds that contain a single aromaticring.  An aromatic ring is a linked ringof six carbon atoms, the simplest one being benzene.  Aromatic hydrocarbons got their name becausemost of these compounds are associated with a distinct sweet scent.  In aquatic environments, aromatichydrocarbons are quite possibly the most important contributors to toxicity(Frost et al., 1998).  The most abundant group of monocyclicaromatic hydrocarbons found to be present in produced water is a group ofvolatile organic compounds known as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, andxylenes).   BTEX is acutely toxic toorganisms exposed to high concentrations (NRC, 1985; Boesch and Rabalais,1987), and the components of BTEX are known as probable carcinogens.  The US EPA has designated a limitation of0.369 ppm for BTEX in marine waters (US EPA, 2008a[1]),but  BTEX has been found in producedwaters generated in the Gulf of Mexico at concentrations ranging as high as 600ppm (Neff, 2002).  In the class ofmonocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the state of Louisiana under Draft NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 only monitors produced waters for discharges ofbenzene.  As seen in Table 2, there are thirteenother monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including the remaining components ofBTEX (toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) that are known to be present inproduced waters yet are not monitored before being discharged into the Louisianaterritorial sea. 

 

3.3.2.2. Aliphatic Hydrocarbons

Aliphatichydrocarbons are hydrocarbons which do not contain aromatic rings.  Aliphatic hydrocarbons found in producedwaters in the territorial seas of Louisiana include a group of compounds knownas n-alkanes.  N-alkanes are a group ofsingle-bonded straight-chained hydrocarbons that includes compounds such aspentane, hexane, heptane, and octane, just to name a few.  Most n-alkanes are volatile organic compoundsand many have been classified as dangerous to the environment and toxic toaquatic organisms.  Like aromatichydrocarbons, alkanes rapidly bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms (Veil, 1992). 

Thesolubility of n-alkanes tends to decrease as their molecular weights increase,therefore higher weight n-alkanes will not be in solution with producedwater.  Instead, heavier n-alkanes havebeen found to exist in produced water in particulate form or in a form similarto oil droplets.  As previouslydiscussed, current technology does not allow for the removal of oil dropletsfrom water when oil droplets are smaller than 10 microns in size.  Thus, n-alkane droplets smaller than 10microns will not be removed from produced water before it is discharged to theterritorial seas.  A study performed ontwo offshore oil wells in the territorial seas of Louisiana detected 25different n-alkanes in produced water discharges.  The total discharges of all 25 n-alkanesranged from 606 to 2,680 parts per billion (ppb) (Neff, 2002).  N-alkanes, or any other aliphatic hydrocarbonin produced water discharges, are not monitored under the State of Louisiana’s DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000.  

 

3.3.2.3. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are compounds that consist of two or more fusedaromatic rings.  PAHs are the most toxicand environmentally stable fraction of produced water, and also the most likelyconstituent of produced water to adsorb to sediment on the seafloor (Rabalias et al., 1991).  PAHs are so hazardous because they increasebiological oxygen demand[2],are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and are known to be carcinogens tohumans and animals. All PAHs are mutagenic, meaning that they can change thegenetic information of an organism and increase the frequency at which thatorganism may develop mutations which may contribute to the development ofcancer.   All PAHs are also known to beharmful to reproduction.  Heavy PAHs arenot very soluble in water and are therefore very likely to bind to sediment onthe seafloor.  Their ability to stronglybind to sediment allows them to persist in the environment for very longperiods of time (Danish EPA, 2003). 

PAHshave been detected in produced waters at concentrations ranging as high as 3.0 ppm(Neff, 2002).  Elevated levels ofphenols, anthracene, and naphthalenes have been found to be as high as 0.89 ppb,0.00056 ppb, and 0.036 ppb, respectively, in coastal Louisiana waters.  The US EPA has designated a limit of 0.00018 ppmfor anthracene, and a limit of 0.0014 ppm for naphthalenes in marine waters (USEPA, 2008a).  It should be noted however,that concentrations in coastal waters are likely to be higher than those interritorial seas due to tidal movement and turbidity which increases mixing anddilution in territorial seas.  Another PAHof concern is benzo(a)pyrene. Benzo(a)pyrene is known to readily adsorb to ocean sediment andbioconcentrate in aquatic life such as plankton, oysters, and fish (EPA, 2006).  The State of Louisiana does not require thatPAHs be monitored under Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000.

Studiesshow that oysters have been found to release accumulated hydrocarbons whenexposed to contaminant-free water after exposure to water contaminated byhydrocarbons (Somerville et al., 1987; Neff, 1988).  Commercial oysters are usually harvesteddirectly and not depurated before being sold. Therefore, oysters, and possibly other shellfish that are consumed couldrelease accumulated hydrocarbons into human bodily fluids afterconsumption. 

 

3.3.2.4. Phenols

 

Phenolsare organic compounds of major concern because they are estrogenic endocrinedisruptors.  This means that they havethe potential to have detrimental effects on reproduction processes (Frost et al., 1998).  The US EPA has designated a limit of 0.058 ppmfor phenols in marine waters (US EPA, 2008a). The State of Louisiana under DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000 requires produced water discharged into theterritorial seas to be monitored for total phenols with limits based ondilution equations.

 

3.3.3 Inorganic Compounds 

Inorganicions control the salinity, or salt concentration, of produced waters dischargedinto the territorial seas of Louisiana. When positively and negatively charged inorganic ions are neutralized byother ions present in produced water they form salts, therefore increasing thesalinity of the produced water. The major inorganic ions present in Gulf Coastproduced waters are sodium, calcium, magnesium, chlorides, bromides,bicarbonates, and sulfates.  When inionic form, many of the metals listed in Table 2 will also react with otherions to form salts in produced water.  InGulf Coast produced waters, sodium is the most abundant positively chargedinorganic ion, and chloride is the most abundant negatively charged inorganicion (Collins, 1967).  Sodium chlorideaccounts for seventy-three percent of all dissolved salts in produced water(Reid, 1961; Collins, 1967). 

Thesalinity of produced water is an important factor to be considered becausesalinity determines how the plume of discharged produced water will disperse inthe sea.  If the salinity of producedwater is greater than that of seawater, the produced water will be denser andsink to the seafloor.  A study conductedin the Gulf of Mexico released flourocene dye at a produced water outfall of anoffshore production platform and observed the plume to move to the bottom ofthe sea (Steimle and Associates, Inc., 1992). The dispersal of produced wateramong the sediment of the seafloor could poison and kill the benthic communitythat inhabits it.  Benthic organisms area major food source for larger aquatic life. 

Thesalinity of seawater is normally about 35 parts per thousand (‰) (Reid, 1961).  Most produced waters generated from GulfCoast offshore oil and gas wells have salinities greater than that of seawater(St. Pé, 1990).  The salinity of producedwaters has been measured as high as 300 ‰ (Rittenhouse, et al.,1969), and produced waters associated with Louisiana oil reserves usually rangefrom 50 to 150 ‰ (Hanor et al., 1986).  The usual salinity range of Louisianaproduced waters is greater than that of the average open seawater, and thereforemost produced waters from offshore wells in Louisiana pose a threat to thebenthic communities that inhabit the seafloors of the territorial seas adjacentto the discharge outfall.

Sulfates,inorganic salts of sulfuric acid, are commonly found in produced waters.  Sulfates are important constituents ofproduced waters because they control the solubility, and thus theconcentrations, of other constituents in produced water.  Sulfides, another group of inorganiccompounds, may be formed by the bacterial reduction of sulfates in producedwaters that contain no oxygen (Neff, 2002). Sulfides are highly toxic, and hydrogen sulfide, one of the most toxicforms of sulfide, has been detected in produced waters at concentrations ashigh as 1,000 ppm (Kochelek and Stone, 1989). The EPA recommends a hydrogen sulfide limit of 0.002 ppm in marinewaters (US EPA, 2008a).  Ammonia, anotherhighly toxic inorganic compound is not usually detected in produced waters, butwhen it was detected, concentrations were found to be as high as 650 ppm.  The EPA designated a limit of 0.005 ppm forammonia in marine water (US EPA, 2008a).

Similarto all of the other organic and inorganic compounds found in produced waters,high concentrations of salinity may contribute directly to the toxicity of theproduced water.  Many marine species,such as the shrimp, Mysidopsis bahia,only have saline tolerances of around 35‰ (Sauer et al.,1997).  An increase in produced watersalinity due to an abundance of inorganic ions can provide a toxic, if notlethal, environment for certain marine organisms.  Elevated levels of salinity have also beenfound to mask other potential toxicants in produced water.  A study performed on produced waters sampledin Louisiana, Texas, California, and Wyoming found that the samples of producedwater with higher salinities concealed other toxicants present in the samples(Sauer et al., 1997).  Increased salinity in produced waters mayprevent scientists and researchers from detecting other hazardous toxicconstituents present in produced water, thus preventing the drafting of regulationsto limit these constituents in produced water discharges.

TheDraft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 does not require produced waterdischargers to monitor for any of the inorganic compounds discussed above.  In regard to what the Draft NPDES GeneralPermit LAG260000 does require dischargers to monitor, only seawater is consideredand not seafloor sediment.  Studies haveshown that relying on only seawater salinity readings might result in the falseconclusion that produced water quickly disperses in seawater after it isdischarged (St Pé, 1990).  As previouslydiscussed, high levels of salinity cause produced waters to sink to theseafloor when discharged into the open sea. Chloride from produced water has been found in highly elevated levels insediment while overlying water in the same location contained no detectablemeasures of chloride.  This suggests thatany dilution that might occur when produced water is discharged into the opensea may be insufficient to completely reduce the salinity difference betweenproduced water and seawater (St. Pé, 1990).  In a study conducted in Louisiana coastal waters, produced water wasshown to penetrate at least 30 centimeters into seafloor sediment, andsediments were affected much further from the discharge pipe than was theoverlying water (St. Pé, 1990). 

3.3.4 Metals

Thereare about twenty different metals that have been discovered in produced watersdischarged into the territorial seas of Louisiana.  Metal concentrations in produced waters areoften measured to be higher than metal concentrations in seawater, and elevatedconcentrations of metals are known to be toxic to aquatic life (Neff,2002).  When metals in anoxic producedwater come in contact with oxygenated seawater, most precipitate out ofproduced water and rapidly settle on the seafloor.  Once metals form a precipitate and are nolonger dissolved in water, dilution has no affect on making metals less toxicto aquatic organisms.  It has been foundthat metals in particulate form are generally more toxic than the metals thatremain dissolved in water.  Metalparticles settled on the seafloor pose a direct threat to the benthic communityof the Louisiana territorial seas.  Tidalmovement across the seafloor can also stir up sediment, therefore releasingfluxes of precipitated metals into seawater for other aquatic organisms such asfish to ingest.  Metal precipitates arealso known to adsorb onto oil droplets and rise to the surface of the sea.(Azetsu-Scott et al., 2007) 

Aquaticorganisms that ingest contaminated seawater or sediment can accumulate highlytoxic levels of metals within their bodies. The most frequently present metals at elevated concentrations inproduced waters generated in the Gulf of Mexico are arsenic, barium, iron,lead, manganese, and zinc (Neff et al.,1987).  Metals that are known toaccumulate in aquatic animals and/or aquatic plants are aluminum, arsenic,barium, cadmium, mercury, thallium, vanadium, and zinc (ATSDR, 2007).  Concentrations of arsenic, lead, mercury, andzinc measured in produced waters generated in the Gulf of Mexico have beenfound to exceed marine water limitations set forth by the EPA.  The EPA marine regulation limits for arsenic,lead, mercury, and zinc are 12.5, 8.1, 0.016, and 81 ppb, respectively (US EPA,2008a).  Concentrations of arsenic, lead,mercury, and zinc from produced waters generated in the Gulf of Mexico wererecorded at levels as high as 31, 28, 0.2, and 3,600 ppb, respectively (Neff,2002).  Produced waters discharged intocoastal waters of Louisiana contained arsenic levels as high as 87 ppb (St. Pé,1990).  Of all the known metalconstituents found in produced waters, the state of Louisiana under Draft NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 only requires discharging facilities to monitor theirproduced waters for lead and thallium. 

3.3.5 Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

Aspreviously discussed, produced waters generated from oil and gas wells inLouisiana can contain a range of radium concentrations.  From a health prspective, radium-226 andradium-228 are of greatest concern. Radium-226 is an alpha-emitting decay product of uranium-238 anduranium-234, and radium-228 is a beta-emitting daughter of thorium-232. 

TheGulf of Mexico is an important producer of fish and shellfish, and there is alarge concern that produced waters that contain radium could contaminate the fishand shellfish consumed by humans.  Radium(the total of radium-226 and radium-228 combined) is known to bioaccumulate infood organisms.  This means that foodorganisms, or organisms humans and other animals eat, take up radium at afaster rate than that at which it is lost from their bodies.  Due to this uptake process, food organisms mayconcentrate high levels of radium within the tissues and shells or bones oftheir bodies.  If aquatic organisms suchas fish and shellfish accumulate radium in their bodies, humans that eat fishand shellfish will be exposed to elevated levels of radium.  An increased uptake of radium in humans maylead to a significant increase in the risk of developing cancer, as well asother non-carcinogenic effects. 

Millionsof gallons of produced water carrying NORM contamination are discharged intothe waters off the coast of Louisiana every year (St. Pé, 1990).  The State of Louisiana currently does nothave any regulation on radium concentrations in produced waters, nor does it suggesta specific discharge limitation on radium concentrations in produced water inits Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000.. Rather than establishing discharge limitation guidelines for concentrationsof radium-226 and radium-228, a mixing theory was adopted based on the CORMIXMixing Zone Model.  With this model, theoil industry was able to show that radium concentrations in discharged producedwaters could be reduced to nonhazardous concentrations by dilution inseawater.   The CORMIX model determinesallowable discharge concentrations of radium-226 and radium-228 in producedwater, based on the flow rate, size, and distance from the seafloor of thedischarge pipe.  Studies have shown,however, that elevated concentrations of radium are still accumulating in thewater column, sea floor sediment, and aquatic biota even when CORMIX criticaldilution factors were taken into account. 

Hazardousconcentrations of radium have been specified by federal agencies.  The US EPA under the Resource Conservationand Recovery Act of 1976 states that concentrations of radium greater than 50pCi/L be considered hazardous wastes (LDEQ, 1989).   TheNuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the state of Louisiana under theLouisiana Radiation Regulations prohibits the discharge of all radium-226contaminated liquids with activities greater than 60 pCi/L from licensednuclear facilities to unrestricted areas (LDEQ, 2005).  Normal open sea activity of radium-226 has  concentrations of about 0.05 pCi/L (Holt et al., 1982).

Numerousstudies conducted in the Gulf of Mexico have found concentrations of radium inproduced waters that greatly surpass the regulatory limits set forth by the USEPA and the NRC.  One study found that radium-226concentrations in produced waters generated in Louisiana ranged from 0 to 930pCi/L with an average concentration of 159.2 pCi/L.  Radium-228 concentrations were found to varyfrom 0 to 928 pCi/L, with an average concentration of 164.5 pCi/L (Hamilton et al., 1992).  A study by the American Petroleum Institute foundslightly lower Ra-228 concentrations in produced water, concentrations ranging from255 pCi/L to 265 pCi/L (Continental Shelf Associates, Inc., 1992).  Another study performed on produced watersgenerated by offshore wells in Louisiana found radium-226 and radium-228concentrations to reach as high as 1,565 pCi/L and 1,509 pCi/L, respectively(Neff, 2002).  A study conducted by St.Pé in Louisiana coastal waters found radium-226 concentrations in producedwaters to range from 355 pCi/L to 567 pCi/L (St. Pé, 1990)[3].  The lowest activity level found in thisstudy, 355 pCi/L, was 7100 times greater than the radium activity found in openseawater, and seven times greater than the radium limit regulated by the USEPA.  

Anotherstudy of forty-one samples of produced water in the Gulf of Mexico region foundradium-226 and radium-228 activity present in all of the forty-one producedwater samples collected during the study. Of these forty-one samples, seventy-six percent contained at least 50pCi/L of radium, and activity among these samples ranged from 19 to 2800 pCi/L(Kraemer and Reid, 1984).  A study in 1991found that the total radium activities observed in Louisiana produced waterswere approximately 150 to 1150 times greater than radium activities in naturalwaters (Rabalais et al., 1991).   Severalother radionuclides have been found to be present in produced waters dischargedinto territorial seas, but the activities of these radionuclides are much lowerthan those of radium.  Theseradionuclides include but are not limited to strontium-89, strontium-90, bismuth-212,bismuth-214, actinium-228, lead-210, lead-212, and lead-214 (Van Hattum et al., 1992). 

Likesalts, radium-226 has been found to accumulate in seafloor sediments whendischarged into seawater.   High levelsof radium ranging from 182 pCi/g to 533 pCi/g[4]  were measured in the top ten centimeters ofcoastal water sediments in Louisiana (St. Pé, 1990).  Although only the top ten centimeters ofsediment were measured, there was evidence suggesting that radium-226contamination in sediment near the mouth of produced water discharge pipes mayincrease with depth.  In some locationsin coastal Louisiana waters, radium activities from produced waters greaterthan 5 pCi/g were found up to 500 meters from the discharge point (St. Pé,1990).

 

4. Toxicity of Produced Water on Aquatic Organisms

Thedischarge of produced waters to the oceans has been recognized in Canada as anemerging environmental issue, and an integrated risk assessment approach hasbeen developed in one study based upon the Princeton Ocean Model, a RandomWalk, and Monte Carlo simulation (Zhao, Chen, and Lee, 2008). Research on theeffects of produced waters has primarily focused on coastal areas, and thuslittle information has been produced on effects in the section of the oceanclosest to land, where the territorial seas occur.

 

Theimpacts from produced water discharges depend upon many factors includinginstantaneous and long-term precipitation, adsorption to particulate matter,physical-chemical reactions with other chemical species, dilution,volatilization, and biodegradation (Veil et al, 2004). While dilution occursfurther out in the open ocean, much of the territorial seas are in more shallownear shore areas and thus do not have the degree of dilution that are presentfurther offshore.

 

4.1 Bioaccumulation and Toxicity

Bioaccumulationoccurs when an organism takes in a greater amount of a contaminant than itexcretes. Over time the organism may build up greater and greater amounts of acontaminant as it is stored within the body. Bioaccumulation allows forcontaminants to enter the food web and biomagnify as they enter higher trophiclevels.

Thetoxicity of contaminants is dependent on many factors and varies betweenspecies. Exposure can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Thebioaccumulation and toxicity of contaminants from produced waters in severaltypes of marine organisms is discussed below.

In1986 Harper reviewed a great deal of unpublished literature and determined thatthe effects from produced water were dependent on the volume and flow rates inreceiving water and the quantity of produced water discharged. Elevatedsalinity, hydrocarbon contamination, and effected biotic communities were foundkilometers downstream in coastal streams not tidally influenced. In tidallyinfluenced environments the detrimental effects tended to be limited to 100-200meters from the discharge (Harper, 1986).

Twostudies performed in the Gulf of Mexico observed a general trend among sedimentwithin the vicinity of offshore production platforms.  The observed trend was that sediment near thedischarge source consisted of high sand and gravel content, while finer-grainedsediments such as silts and clays occurred at distances farther away from theplatform (Middleditch, 1981 & Continental Shelf Associates, Inc.,1992).  Naturally, coarser sediments,such as sand and gravel, will not be suspended in  the water column. However, finer, lightersediments, such as silts and clays, can be carried through the water column bythe movement of a discharge plume. This results in the transport ofcontaminated sediment to distances as far as 200 meters from a dischargesource.  A study conducted for theAmerican Petroleum Institute found that concentrations of produced waterconstituents in sediment increased with increased distance from the dischargepoint (Continental Shelf Associates, Inc., 1992). 

 

4.1.1 Macro Invertebrates

 

Variousresearch projects have established that the contaminants from produced waterdischarges can harm macro invertebrates. Since there are many factors in theareas around produced water discharges it has been difficult to establish infield or laboratory studies that capture the precise effect of produced waterson the environment and marine life.

Researchassociated with the GOOMEX project found a reduction of genetic diversity inmeiobenthic copepods in close proximity to production platforms (Fleeger et al,2001). Negative impacts to benthic communities have been observed at distancesup to 800 meters from produced water discharge locations. The benthic communityat an abandoned discharge site demonstrated continued detrimental effects threeyears Various research projects have established that the contaminants fromproduced water discharge can harm macro invertebrates. Since there are manyfactors in the areas around produced water discharges it has been difficult toestablish in field or laboratory studies the precise effect of produced waterson the environment and marine life.

followingthe cessation of discharge (Rabalais et al, 1992). Depressed densities ofinfauna, aquatic benthic organisms living in the bottom strata, have beenobserved as far as one kilometer from a platform discharge in the Galveston Bay(Osenberg et al, 1992). This area was shallow and turbid; in most territorialwaters a greater degree of dilution would occur, although contaminants wouldstill accumulate in the sediment.

Thestudy by Osenberg et al evaluated the biological impacts from discharge ofproduced waters in the high energy coastal environment of Southern California.In this case, discharge comes from onshore, travels through a pipe severalhundred meters, and is released into the water. This scenario is similar to theterritorial seas because it is a high energy open coast environment, althoughit somewhat sheltered by the northern Channel Islands. The surf is 1-2 meters,with seasonal variation. The calculated minimal dilution for this pipe is125:1.  The results from this study foundthat impacts to the infauna appeared to be primarily limited to the 50-100meters closest to the outfall. Nematodes were more abundant near the outfall(Osenberg et al, 1992). This is indicative of effects from the discharge ofproduced water as nematodes respond well to organic enrichment in sedimentsfrom oil and sewage contamination.

TheSt. Pe study evaluated the effects of produced water on hyalella azteca, an amphipod. One of the samples with the amphipodsdemonstrated high mortality in a 10 day study. This sample had the highestsalinity and chloride levels and thus the toxicity may have been due to that(St. Pe, 1990).

4.1.2 Mollusks

 

Mollusksare invertebrates with soft un-segmented bodies fully enclosed in a shell.Examples of mollusks within this section include abalone (edible sea snails),mussels, and oysters.

Anearly study on oil pollution and oysters in 1935 found that oil pollution and"bleed water" pollution are detrimental to oysters because theydecrease the feeding activity of oysters and by inhibiting the production ofdiatoms which make up a large portion of the oyster diet (Montgomery, 1946).

Onestudy was conducted in Southern California by an outfall in a mostly openhigh-energy coastal area found a decrease in the performance of abalone larvaeassociated with exposure to the produced water. The abalone larvae demonstratedreductions in survival, settlement, and metamorphosis with increased proximityto the outfall. This study also found that when the outfall was not active for10 days and no produced water was discharged that these effects disappeared(Ray and Engelhardt, 1992). This study did not include information about thebioaccumulation of contaminants in the abalone.

Astudy by Osenberg et al. found that mussels near the same outfall discussed inthe preceding paragraph grew more slowly and had lower tissue weights thanmussels further from the outfall (Osenberg at al., 1992). Another study onCalifornia mussel larvae found that exposure to barium (as barium acetate) ledto consistent abnormal shell development and larvae morphology. This resultsuggests that calcification during the larval stage is sensitive to thepresence of elevated levels of barium (Spangenberg and Cherr, 1996).

Inthe Somerville et al study mussels were placed 0, 6, 10, 25, and 60 meters froma produced water outfall in the open sea for a 10 to 16 week period.Hydrocarbon concentrations which accumulated in the mussels at the outfall were60 to 100 times higher than in the unexposed controls, 6 to 10 times higherthan the controls at 6 meters, and were consistent with the control levels at10 meters (Somerville et al., 1987).

Inthe Jeffree and Simpson study on uranium mill tailings freshwater mussels werefound to accumulate a dry weight tissue mean concentration of 679 pCi/g Ra-226when exposed to a water concentration of 50 pCi/L of Ra-226 for 56 days. Thisstudy also found that freshwater mussels retained the Ra-226 when placed inradium free water for 286 days (Jeffree and Simpson, 1986).

Oystersare an important commercial product in Louisiana as well as being a usefulindicator of water quality. Several studies have assessed the effects tooysters from produced waters in the Gulf region.

The1990 St. Pe study evaluated the accumulation of VOCs, PAHs, and Ra-226 in cagedoysters near three produced water discharges and one reference site in coastalLouisiana. The oysters were left in cages for 30 days with exposure to both thewater column and sediment. The amount of oyster tissue available for analysiswas dependent on the number of oysters still alive in the cages at the end of 30days. In one of the locations no oysters died, one location had 64% mortalitywith only 27 of 75 surviving, while the fourth had 7% mortality with 70 of 75surviving. At the reference location all of the oysters survived. Benzene wasdetected in the oysters at two of the locations and toluene and ethyl benzenewere detected at all three locations, and no volatiles were detected at thereference location. The total volatile concentrations ranged from 0.003-0.372μg/g. Only trace amounts of PAHs were detected at the reference location, whilethe other three locations had total PAH concentrations of 0.022-0.28 μg/g.Radium-226 was detected in one location at 3.1 pCi/g wet weight (distance of110 meters from the outfall). The other two locations and the referencelocation had Ra-226 concentrations below the detection limit. The site with thehighest mortality was also the site with the highest levels of PAHs accumulatedin the oysters, although it did not have the highest levels of VOCs or Ra-226.This study demonstrates that oysters can accumulate VOCs, PAHs, and Ra-226 in arelatively short time near produced water discharge locations. It was not clearto the researchers whether the Ra-226 that accumulated in the oysters were fromthe water column or sediments.

Ina study by Rabalais et al. American oysters were deployed in cages at variousdistances from produced water discharges in the coastal area of Louisiana. Theoysters were deployed in water depths of 1-2 meters approximately 0.1 metersabove the sediment. Oysters in two of the locations accumulated significantlevels of PAHs and total hydrocarbons above background levels. A seconddeployment of oysters was conducted which found lower uptake. The lowereduptake is thought to be due to seasonal variation and reproductive conditionsof the oysters. Radium activity above the detection limit was observed in fourof 14 samples analyzed; the four detections, ranging from below the detectionlimit to 4.3 dpm/g (1.94 pCi/g), were found adjacent to a discharge and 200meters from a discharge location (Rabalais et al., 1992). It is not statedwithin the study whether the measured concentration pertained to whole body orjust the soft tissue of the oysters. It is assumed that only the tissue wastested, although the shells of oysters would likely accumulate more radium thanthe soft edible parts.

Onestudy in coastal Louisiana found that a whole bicolor purse oyster had aconcentration of 0.1 pCi/g of Ra-226 and <0.8 pCi/g of Ra-228, while onewhole scissor datemussel had a concentration of 0.2 pCi/g of Ra-226 and <0.8pCi/g of Ra-228, and one whole transverse ark clam had a concentration of 0.1pCi/g of Ra-226 and 1.9 pCi/g of Ra-228. (Milino and Rayle, 1992)

Americanoysters are bottom dwelling filter feeders which burrow into the sediment inthe benthic zone. Hydrocarbons sorb to sediment and are bioavailable to bottomfeeders leading to their introduction into the aquatic food web. Oysters in onestudy were exposed to four dilutions of contaminated estuarine sediment fromPass Fourchon in Louisiana, containing 0%, 12.5%, 25%, and 50% contaminatedsediment. The contaminated sediment had a concentration of 52 mg/kg totalpetroleum aromatic hydrocarbons. This study found that the sediment boundcontaminants associated with produced water discharges are bioavailable tofilter feeders such as oysters. Accumulation occurred as quickly as withinthree days and petroleum aromatic hydrocarbons increased with a dose and timedependent relationship. Significant mortality was noted at the two highest doserates; these mortalities occurred at the higher dose levels and appeared to bedue to the compromised physiological state of the oysters from contaminantexposure (Winston and Means, 1995). This study found that hydrocarbons canrapidly enter the aquatic food web and cause adverse impacts.

Inthe Boesch and Rabalais study, in areas in close proximity to produced waterdischarge in coastal Louisiana, PAHs have been detected at concentrations of0.24-3.4 μg/g in oysters and 0.015-0.88 μg/g in ribbed mussels. Total saturatedhydrocarbons were detected in the tissue of oysters at concentrations of 68-550μg/g and in ribbed mussels at concentrations of 33-180 μg/g (Boesch and Rabalais,1989).

Severalfactors can affect the uptake of radium in aquatic organisms. Calcium ions inwater can reduce radium uptake. Small increases in temperature led to increasedbiological activity and thus the uptake and excretion of radionuclides. In astudy on shellfish, one study found that the primary factors affectingconcentration factors were salinity and temperature (Meinhold and Hamilton,1992). Radium accumulates in marine organisms. It concentrates in bone, shell,and exoskeletons due to its similarity to calcium. It has been determined thatoysters can accumulate radium-226 in a linear manner from produced watercontaining radium at levels which were much lower than those measured in thecoastal waters of Louisiana (Jeffree and Simpson, 1986). 

 

4.1.3 Crustaceans

Crustaceansare primarily aquatic organisms including animals such as barnacles, crabs,lobsters, and shrimp. One study has looked at the concentrations ofcontaminants detected in barnacles and crabs in coastal Louisiana.

TheSt. Pe study evaluated the effects of produced water on opossum shrimp. Theopossum shrimp experienced acute toxicity in the four samples tested. Thesalinity levels and the effects did not follow a pattern, and so salinity didnot appear to be the primary cause of toxicity (St. Pe, 1990).

Thisstudy found that whole barnacles had concentrations of 0.2-0.8 pCi/g of Ra-226and <0.9-1.3 pCi/g of Ra-228. The hard parts of barnacles had concentrationsof non-detect - 0.7 pCi/g of Ra-226 and non-detect-3.7 pCi/g of Ra-228. Thesoft parts of barnacles had concentrations of non-detect-0.4 pCi/g for Ra-226and non-detect-1.3 pCi/g for Ra-228. Whole stone crabs had concentrations ofnon-detect-1.3 pCi/g of Ra-226 and non-detect-2.0 of Ra-228. This studydemonstrates that radium does concentrate in the hard calcified parts ofaquatic life. These data also found that the concentrations of Ra-226 insediment are highest in closer proximity to discharges, particularly within 20meters (Milino and Rayle, 1992).

AnAmerican Petroleum Institute study detected concentrations of Ra-226 and Ra-228in samples of spider crab shells collected at distances of 0, 50, and 100 metersfrom the discharge point of an offshore production platform (Continental ShelfAssociates, Inc., 1992).  In anotherAmerican Petroleum Institute study, the maximum tissue concentration of Ra-226in crabs located on one of the platform legs at a depth of 9 meters was 1.3 ±0.3 pCi/g.  The maximum Ra-228 tissueconcentration was 3.7 ± 1.2 pCi/g (Steimle and Associates, Inc., 1992). 

 

4.1.4 Fish

 

Inone study in the coastal waters of Louisiana, whole crested blennys, a type offish, did not have detections of Ra-226 and had concentrations ofnon-detect-2.7 pCi/g of Ra-228 (Milino and Rayle, 1992).

Astudy performed at two offshore production platforms in the Northern Gulf ofMexico detected measurable levels of Ra-228 in two species of mid-water fish inthe vicinity of the platforms: the red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus and the bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix.  Ra-228was detectable in all three tissue types, the skin, fillet, and bone, of thered snapper.  Ra-228 was detected in the skintissue of the blue fish.  In the samestudy, Ra-228 was also detectrf in two specimens of catfish collected 100 and300 meters from the discharge point of an offshore platform.  (Continental Shelf Associates, Inc., 1992)

TheSt. Pe study evaluated the effects of produced water on sheepshead minnows. Theminnows also experienced acute toxicity in the four samples tested. Salinity didnot appear to be the cause of toxicity in the minnows either (St. Pe, 1990).

 

4.1.5 Other Marine Life

 

Seaurchins were found to have decreased reproductively in areas closest toproduced water discharge sites in an area sampled along 1 kilometer from anactive produced water outfall (Krause, 1995). Migrant shorebirds have beenfound to have accumulated high levels of heavy metals and PAHs while winteringin the area of produced water discharges (Roach et al, 1993).

4.2 Human Consumption

 

Webriefly evaluated the potential risk to humans consuming seafood contaminatedby produced water. This analysis is presented below.

 

Where:

ShellfishIngestion Rate = 2.00-74.2 g/day[5]

Time= 365 days/year

ShellfishConcentrationRa-226 = 3.1 pCi/g[6]

DCFRa-226= 1.32E-03 mrem/pCi (3.58E-07 Sv/Bq)[7]

Theresults of this calculation result in a dose to a human from shellfishconsumption are 3 to 111 mrem/yr. If we assume the 5,900 g/yr used in Meinholdand Hamilton for the maximum consumption of mollusks by adults in the WestSouth Central Region of the US (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) thanthe resulting dose is 24 mrem/yr. By means of comparison, the EPA recommendsthat radiation exposure not exceed 10 mrem/yr while the NRC requires thatradiation exposure from a closed facility not exceed 25 mrem/yr. It should benoted that the EPA recommendation does not pertain specifically to this case asthe exposure limit of 10 mrem/yr is put forth by the Clean Water Act which isnot pertinent to territorial seas. Nonetheless, an exposure to 10 mrem/yr orgreater could very well be hazardous to human health. There is some potentialfor exposure to seafood contaminated by produced waters to exceed these values.Without studies on marine life specifically in the territorial seas we do nothave precise data to use on the activity in oysters in that region. We use anactivity from the coastal area as it was taken in one of the most thoroughstudies to date on produced waters.

 

5. DischargesOther than Produced Water

Although produced waterdischarges are the largest contributors of toxicants to the territorial seas,they are not the only toxic wastes generated by the oil and gas E&Pprocess.  Discharges of deck drainagecontain remnants of oil and grease and toxic contaminants spilled or leaked onoil and gas well platforms.  Welltreatment, completion, and workover fluids contain oil and grease, radium-226and radium-228, and trace amounts of the 126 priority pollutants.  Sanitary waste discharges contains fecalcoliform and floating solids and can change the pH of seawater.  Domestic waste, such as materials dischargedfrom galleys, sinks, showers, eye wash stations, and laundries, can contain chemicalcompounds toxic to aquatic life. Hydrostatic test water is known to contain BTEX, lead, and oil andgrease.  Draft NPDES General PermitLAG260000 set the daily maximum limitation of total BTEX concentrations inhydrostatic test water at 250 ppb.  Aspreviously discussed, BTEX concentrations have been found in produced waters ashigh as 600,000 ppb.  Miscellaneousdischarges of wastewaters and seawater and freshwater that have been chemicallytreated contain treatment chemicals and oil and grease. 

6. Changesfrom Original NPDES General Permit LAG260000

Several changes havebeen made between the proposed NPDES General Permit LAG26000 and its originalversion that expired in 2002.  DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000 incorporates a revised Notice of Intent (NOI)that streamlines the permitting process by issuing a new general permit tospecific sites instead of individual operators. Each specific site can theninstitute a number of new wells without having to obtain a new permit through asimple NOI to the LDEQ. 

Allowing specific sitesto establish an unregulated number of new wells without having to first obtainthe approval of LDEQ have the potential to result in harmful  environmental impacts.  The implementation of a NOI does not requirethat an environmental review of a new well  and its associated discharges be conducted beforeit is put into operation.  Environmentalimpacts are driven by the total quantities of waste discharged; an unspecifiednumber of wells in a general area will lead to an unknown total quantity ofdischarges.  Discharges from a number ofwells within close proximity to each other will have hazardous cumulativeeffects on aquatic biota. 

The proposed NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000 incorporates a conditional Stormwater PollutionPrevent Plan requirement to those facilities that have had a reportablequantity release of oil or a hazardous substance in stormwater[8].  Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 alsoincorporates washing prohibitions and best management practices (BMPs) forwashdown wastewaters for the outfall category of deck drainage, and additionalBMPs for spill prevention and control measurement plans have been added to thepermit as well. 

Other changes to the proposedNPDES General Permit LAG260000 include adding a flow parameter to be measured inmillions of gallons per day (MGD) to all discharge types.   This parameter was not required in theoriginal NPDES General Permit LAG260000. The monthly average limitation on every effluent parameter for sanitarywaste discharges has been changed to a weekly average and the daily maximumlimitation has been removed. 

The discharge of hydrostatictest water has been added to the permit as Outfall Category 6.  This discharge type was not included in theoriginal NPDES General Permit LAG260000, but it has since been recognized thathydrostatic test water is a commonly discharged byproduct of well installationand repair processes and therefore should be regulated under this permit.  The limitations and monitoring frequenciesassigned to hydrostatic test waters are based on limits issued by LDEQ onSeptember 19, 2007.  A reportingrequirements for hydrostatic test water has been incorporated into the proposedNPDES General Permit LAG260000 as well. 

Language not included inthe original NPDES General Permit LAG260000 has been added to the proposedGeneral Permit to address specific conditions of the permit. Such conditionsinclude coverage under subsequent permits, termination of authorization todischarge, state water quality standards, and combined outfalls.  A permit reopener clause has also been addedto the general permit.

Discharge monitoringreport (DMR) submittal schedule has been changed from an annual submittal to aquarterly submittal, designed to identify habitual non-compliantfacilities.  With the change in DMR submittal,operators will be allowed to submit a list of outfalls that had no discharge inlieu of submitting DMRs for those outfalls whose discharges do not occur at acertain time of the oil and gas E&P process. 

 

7. Criticismsof NPDES General Permit LAG 260000

 

The State of Louisianaand the US EPA failed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement beforerevising expired NPDES General Permit LAG260000.  LDEQ anticipates that 150 new wells will beconstructed in the territorial seas of Louisiana under the revised generalpermit, in addition to the existing 118. Effects of produced water discharges on marine life and endangeredspecies were not reevaluated, nor were the cumulative environmental effects of150 additional new produced water discharges prior to revising NPDES GeneralPermit LAG260000. A draft EIS was produced by the EPA in 1996, but it has sofar not been released to the general public.

Cumulative affects ofproduced water discharges are not accounted for when preparing the Draft NPDESGeneral Permit LAG260000.  Organisms canaccumulate elevated levels of toxicants, such as PAHs, radium, and metals intheir body tissues and exoskeletons.  Toxicantconcentrations in produced waters discharged from each well, accounting formixing, could comply with the discharge limitations put forth by NPDES GeneralPermit LAG 260000, but the total quantity of toxicants discharged into the watercolumn and seafloor sediments will be much larger, and the concentrations accumulatedin aquatic organisms such as oysters or other shellfish will likely increaseover time.  Edible marine sea life, suchas oysters have shown to accumulate PAHs, VOCs, and radium. Dischargingproduced waters in the vicinity of marine life directly increases human uptakeof PAHs, VOCs, and radium accumulating in the territorial seas.  The cumulative effects have simply not beenevaluated.

The produced waterdischarge limitation of 1,300 feet from any active oyster lease, live naturaloyster or other molluscan reef, designated oyster seed bed, or sea grass bedmay not be a sufficient distance depending on the number of facilities whichsurround the oyster bed.  If facilitiessurround a molluscan habitat so that a ring of facilities with a radius of1,300 feet around the habitat results, the cumulative effects from all of thoseproduced water discharges will be detrimental to that population ofmollusks.  There is no regulation in DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000 that limits the number of facilities that areallowed to operate around oyster or other ecologically sensitive habitats. 

DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000 does not require that each individual welloperate under its own NPDES permit, but only that each operating facilityobtains one permit for all of its wells. Therefore, permittees can add a number of wells to its facility withouthaving to apply for an additional NPDES General Permit for each wellconstructed.  This means that any numberof wells can be added to an area without assessing the cumulative harmpresented to the surrounding environment. As previously discussed, while an individual well must be located 1300feet from an oyster bed, under the proposed general permit there could be alarge number of wells at 1300 feet from the oyster bed, creating a hazardous condition.  Hazardous environmental impacts are notdriven by just one source of discharge, or how well the discharge is mixed, butby the cumulative quantity of waste discharged from many sources. 

There are over fiftyindividual constituents found in produced waters discharged into the Gulf ofMexico, yet only a small fraction of these constituents are monitored under DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000. Compounds such as BTEX, PAHs, chloride, and arsenic are known to behighly toxic to aquatic plants and organisms, some accumulate in sediments, andsome may bioaccumulate in marine organisms. Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 does not require covered facilitiesto monitor their produced waters for toxic compounds such as these beforedischarging produced water into the territorial seas of Louisiana.

The frequency at whichproduced water discharges are monitored is unacceptable.  Millions of barrels of produced water aredischarged by offshore platforms into the Gulf of Mexico each day, and somefacilities are required to only monitor the toxicity of produced waterdischarges once every three months.  Thiscould lead to the discharge of highly elevated levels of undetectedcontaminants to the territorial seas.  Thecombination of only monthly reporting of quantities of only 7 produced waterconstituents and the requirement of only a notice of intent for all new wellsdoes not allow LDEQ to exercise effective oversight of produced waterdischarges to territorial seas.  Monthlyreporting does not allow LDEQ to fully assess the impacts produced waterdischarges are having on the territorial seas.  

Theproduced water discharge limitation guidelines in Draft NPDES General PermitLAG260000 do not comply with Louisiana Administrative Code 33:IX.708.C.2.c.v,and therefore do not comply with the Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000itself.    LAC33:IX.708.C.2.c.v. and DraftNPDES General Permit LAG260000 Section A, Part 1,  Page 6, state that “no produced water shallbe discharged in a manner that, at any time, facilitates the incorporation ofsignificant quantities of hydrocarbons or radionuclides into sediment or biota.” Studiesshow that both hydrocarbons and radionuclides have accumulated in sedimentdirectly beneath and several kilometers away from produced water dischargepipes, and that hydrocarbons and radionuclides from produced water dischargeshave accumulated in edible aquatic organisms. 

A reduction inmonitoring frequency should not be awarded to those facilities that comply withmonitoring requirements for one full consecutive year.  Allowing facilities to monitor for hazardouscontaminants in produced water only once a year would lead to the discharge ofhighly elevated levels of undetected contaminants to the territorial seas.  This highly elevated levels of contaminantswould create a toxic environment for aquatic organisms and potentially harm thehumans who consume them.

There is no establishedlimit for radium-226 and radium-228 concentration or total radioactivityreleased in produced water discharges under Draft NPDES General PermitLAG260000.  The US EPA has designatedradium activity greater than 50 pCi/L as hazardous waste, and the NuclearRegulatory Commission (NRC) and the State of Louisiana prohibit discharges ofany liquid containing 60 pCi/L or more of radium from nuclear power plants tounrestricted areas.  The concentrationsof radium-226 and radium-228 measured in produced waters in the territorialseas of Louisiana greatly exceed the limits set forth both by the US EPA andthe NRC. 

Only the water column,and not sediment, is considered when monitoring discharges of produced water interritorial seas.  Continued research hasshown, in near shore areas and in territorial sea areas, that sediment canbecome quite contaminated and remain so even following the cessation ofdischarge.  Sediments have also beenfound to contain elevated concentrations of salts, metals, PAHs, and radiumwhile the overlying water column does not contain any measurable levels ofthese same toxics.  As of now, it has notbeen determined if benthic organisms are exposed to toxicity of produced watermainly through water or sediment, therefore, the monitoring of sediments cannotbe excluded from Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000.

Critical dilution factorsare not sufficient for diluting all constituents in produced water dischargedinto the territorial seas of Louisiana. Chloride from produced water has beenfound in highly elevated levels in sediment while overlying water in the samelocation contained no detectable measures of chloride.  This shows that any dilution that might occurwhen produced water is discharged into the open sea may be insufficient tocompletely reduce the concentration difference between produced water andseawater (St. Pé, 1990). 

 

8.  Incomplete Record/Missing Documents

 

Our analysis suffersfrom the fact that LDEQ and the EPA have failed to produce numerous requesteddocuments.  We have attempted to obtainthese documents through personal communications with LDEQ and with a FOIArequest to the EPA.  Without thesedocuments, LEAN and its experts have not been able to supply detailed commentsregarding the proposed action and the record is incomplete.  The primary documents we are missing are adraft EIS prepared by the EPA, and a final EIS. As far as we are aware, the final EIS may or may not have been issued,but it referred to in a November 1997 Federal Register notice for this NPDESpermit.  In addition to these EISdocuments, we lack the basic calculations that support replacing concentrationlimits with mixing parameters, with use of the software CORMIX2.  We need the inputs/outputs to CORMIX2 thatform the basis for replacing concentration limits.  If the agencies evaluate more than onedischarge point for production water, we need the input/output for thisanalysis as well.

Specific documents werequested include the following:

Characterizationof Data Collected from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality PermitFiles for Development of Texas and Louisiana Coastal Subcategory NPDES GeneralPermits. Submitted to EPA Region 6, Water Management Division, 1992. AvantiCorporation

OceanDischarge Criteria Evaluation for the NPDES General Permit for the Eastern Gulfof Mexico.  Submitted to EPA Region 4,Water Management Division, 1993. Avanti Corporation

BiologicalAssessment for the NPDES General Permit for Oil and Gas Exploration,Development and Production Activities on the Eastern Gulf of Mexico OCS.  Submitted to EPA Region 4, Water ManagementDivision, 1993. Avanti Corporation

DraftSupplemental Environmental Impact Statement for National Pollutant DischargeElimination System Permitting for Gulf of Mexico Offshore Oil and GasExtraction, EPA 904/9-95-001A.  GannettFleming, Inc.

9. RecommendedChanges to Final NPDES General PermitLAG260000

Withthe recent suspension and review of all federal agency actions by the newadministration, we recommend that the State similarly hold up the issuance ofany new permits until it can be determined whether new federal regulations willbe considered or issued.  The EPA willhave a new administrator and directives. It makes little sense to issue new NPDES permits now that may later berevised or undone.

AnEnvironmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be completed before accepting theconditions of the Draft NPDES General Permit LAG260000.  This EIS should assess the hazardous effectsexisting permittees under expired NPDES General Permit LAG260000 may have onthe environment of the territorial seas, as well as the potential effects anadditional 150 wells may have.  Dischargelimitation guidelines set in the original version of the NPDES General PermitLAG260000 should be reevaluated, and effects on sediment should be assessed aswell.  The LDEQ should first require ascoping process, and allow the public to review all supporting references forthe draft and final EIS.

TheDraft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 should require that produced water bere-injected into subsurface strata as is done in most cases in the coastal zoneand in upland areas in Louisiana. Re-injection is a proven and cost effective method of disposing ofproduced waters, as well as other wastes.

Therequirement of the 1300 ft distance of all discharges from oyster beds shouldbe reevaluated, and a limit should be placed on the number of wells allowed tooperate within an established distance from oyster and other molluscan reefsand sea beds.  Cumulative discharges fromnumerous wells in one area could create hazardous conditions for oysters and othermollusks that live in territorial seas.  Ratherthan issuing a blank check to oil and gas permittees under the proposed NPDESpermit, the State should carefully assess the cumulative impact of additionalwells near oysters beds.

TheDraft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 should set discharge limitation guidelinesfor more of the hazardous constituents of produced water and incorporate agreater variety of aquatic species in toxicity testing.  We recommend that in addition to oil andgrease, benzene, lead, thallium, total phenol, radium-226, and radium-228,water and sediment samples should also be analyzed for arsenic, BTEX, and totalPAHs. The State of Louisiana should also include a greater amount of toxicitytesting on organisms such as bivalves, crustaceans, and fish in order toestablish the extent of disturbance to the local environment in territorialwaters from the discharge of produced waters. An example of a state that hasincorporated these changes is California. The State of California requires additional guidelines for the dischargeof produced waters. These include sampling for 26 chemicals, setting dischargevolume limits for each platform, quarterly toxicity testing with red abalone,annual chronic toxicity testing with giant kelp and topsmelt, and studying theimpacts of produced water discharges on fish (Veil et al., 2004). Interestingly,EPA-issued NPDES permits for discharges from oil and gas production platformsin federal water on the outer continental shelf required several platforms tomeet effluent standards at the platform (California Coastal Commission, 2004).

TheDraft NPDES General Permit LAG260000 should require ongoing studies by thepermit holders to assess the environmental impacts of their produced waterdischarges. Such impacts of produced water discharges were found by LDEQstudies in the coastal areas of Louisiana, and these studies led to furtherregulation of produced water.

Biologicalmonitoring provides a method to assess the impact from contaminants, includingthose involving synergistic interactions from multiple compounds. Biomonitoringshould be a component of any permit as the many contaminants in produced watercan act synergistically and can bioaccumulate overtime. It is important thatbiomonitoring evaluate non-lethal endpoints as well as mortality. As suggestedby Carney, 1987 and Osenberg et al, 1992 more sensitive bioindicators such asgrowth or reproduction may provide a better method of assessment due to thespatial and temporal variability in population density of aquatic organisms.These parameters have rarely been utilized when evaluating produced waters infield studies.

Sedimentsamples from the area of the discharge should be taken in order to determine ifcontaminants are accumulating in areas other than the water column. Continueddischarge has shown, in near shore areas, that sediment can become quitecontaminated and remain so even following the cessation of discharge. Inaddition, the cumulative impacts from multiple discharges may lead tounacceptable levels of contamination. Since contaminants such as PAHs andradium do accumulate in the sediments, sediments from the discharge area shouldbe used along with water in the toxicity testing. This would provide morecomplete insight into how the discharge of produced waters is impacting thelocal environment.

Dischargelimitation guidelines for radium-226 and radium-228 should be established and specifiedin the general permit as 50 pCi/L, the level recognized as hazardous waste bythe US EPA.

Thefrequency at which produced water discharges are monitored should be increased,and permittees should not be allowed to decrease monitoring frequency after oneyear of compliance.  We recommend thatmonitoring frequency be shortened and all facilities report produced waterdischarge concentrations once per month.  Facilities monitoring frequencyshould not be reduced to once per year after they have been compliant for onefull consecutive year.  The monitoringfrequency of all wells should remain at once per month for the entirety of thatwells operation. 

Inputfactors used to determine critical dilution factors should be reevaluated andresults from sediment toxicity tests should be considered when determiningcritical dilution factors.  Many studiesindicated that although it appeared that contaminants in produced water werediluted when introduced to seawater, sediment layers underlying produced waterdischarges contained elevated concentrations of PAHs, radium, and saltsparticles.  Concentrations of producedwater constituents have also been measured in sediments several kilometers fromdischarge pipes.  Therefore, dilutionfactors currently used are insufficient and need to be reevaluated. 

 

Lastly,we recommend that the state develop better technology to remove smaller sizedoil droplets from produced water. Current technology cannot remove oil droplets smaller in size than 10microns.  Many toxic constituents ofproduced water adsorb to oil droplets and are therefore unable to be removed fromproduced water before being discharged into territorial seas. 


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* Prepared by JackieTravers, B.S. and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., Radioactive Waste ManagementAssociates, on behalf of Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

* Prepared by JackieTravers, B.S. and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., Radioactive Waste ManagementAssociates, on behalf of Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

[1] US EPA Marine ScreeningBenchmarks for Region 4 were used for comparison to Louisiana territorialseawater because Marine Screening Benchmarks for Region 6 were notavailable. 

[2] Biological oxygen demand (BOD) is a method ofmeasuring decaying organic matter in a water body.  High BOD indicates an abundance of decayingorganic matter, which is normally present in polluted waters.  Low BOD indicates water of good quality.

[3] & 4 It should be noted that these measurements weretaken in coastal waters, and not territorial sea waters.  Radium concentrations in territorial seasediments would most likely be lower that those of coastal waters becauseincreased tidal movement will dilute some of the radium in produced watersbefore it settles in sediments on the seafloor of territorial seas.  

[5]ATSDR, 2004

[6]St. Pe, 1990

[7]ICRP-30

[8] See 40 CFR 110.6 and 40 CFR 302.6 for definition ofreportable quantity release in stormwater.


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