Effects of Energy Extraction and Utilization on Source Water Bromide Concentration and Finished Drinking Water Risk
Jeanne M VanBriesen, Ph.D., P.E., F. ASCE, F.EWRI, Duquesne Light Company Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University
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Natural and anthropogenic sources of bromide can alter source waters in ways that affect drinking water quality and human health risk. Bromide, while unreactive in surface waters, interacts with treatment chemicals at the drinking water facility to produce halogenated organic compounds called disinfection by-products (DBPs). DBPs containing bromide are more toxic and carcinogenic than chlorinated DBPs, and the current regulatory structure may not adequately protect drinking water consumers from this changing risk.
Energy extraction and utilization activities produce wastewaters that are elevated in bromide. Produced waters from oil and gas extraction are often high in salts and bromide, and discharge of these wastewaters can increase surface water concentrations of dissolved solids and bromide. Coal-fired power plants can also produce wastewater with high dissolved solids and bromide, with levels depending on the coal quality and air pollution controls such as flue gas desulfurization units and bromide addition for mercury control. These new sources of bromide can affect drinking water sources, especially under low flow conditions where dilution does not adequately reduce bromide concentrations at drinking water intakes.
Several areas of the country not traditionally associated with high bromide have been reporting increasing bromine incorporation into DBPs in treated drinking water due to these new sources. Watershed-, state-, and national-level analyses highlight the critical characteristics of regions where current bromide loads are affecting drinking water consumers. Additionally, these multi-scale analyses identify regions at risk for impaired drinking water quality resulting from energy wastewater discharges. The work is particularly timely as the U.S. EPA is re-considering the Effluent Limitation Guidelines for Steam Electric Power Utilities, which currently do not require control of bromide discharges from FGD systems.
Dr. Jeanne M. VanBriesen is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. VanBriesen holds a B.S. in Education and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University. She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Delaware as well as a Fellow of ASCE and EWRI. Her research is in environmental systems, including detection of biological agents in water systems, speciation-driven biogeochemistry of disinfection by-products, and impacts of energy extraction. Dr. VanBriesen has served on the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board and on the board of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). She is currently serving as Chair of the board of directors of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences (CUAHSI).