An integrative method for identification and prioritization of constituents of concern in produced water from onshore oil and gas extraction.
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In the United States, onshore oil and gas extraction operations generate an estimated 900 billion gallons of produced water annually, making it the largest waste stream associated with upstream development of petroleum hydrocarbons. Management and disposal practices of produced water vary from deep well injection to reuse of produced water in agricultural settings. However, there is relatively little information with regard to the chemical or toxicological characteristics of produced water. A comprehensive literature review was performed, screening nearly 16,000 published articles, and identifying 129 papers that included data on chemicals detected in produced water. Searches for information on the potential ecotoxicological or mammalian toxicity of these chemicals revealed that the majority (56%) of these compounds have not been a subject of safety evaluation or mechanistic toxicology studies and 86% lack data to be used to complete a risk assessment, which underscores the lack of toxicological information for the majority of chemical constituents in produced water. The objective of this study was to develop a framework to identify potential constituents of concern in produced water, based on available and predicted toxicological hazard data, to prioritize these chemicals for monitoring, treatment, and research. In order to integrate available evidence to address gaps in toxicological hazard on the chemicals in produced water, we have catalogued available information from ecological toxicity studies, toxicity screening databases, and predicted toxicity values. A Toxicological Priority Index (ToxPi) approach was applied to integrate these various data sources. This research will inform stakeholders and decision-makers on the potential hazards in produced water. In addition, this work presents a method to prioritize compounds that, based on hazard and potential exposure, may be considered during various produced water reuse strategies to reduce possible human health risks and environmental impacts.