Salt Water Intrusion in the United States by Bob D. Newport and Robert S. Kerr, 1977, US EPA
Salt water intrusion, from one or more sources outlined in this report, has resulted in degradation of subsurface fresh water aquifers in 43 states. Numerous case histories delineating current problems exist, providing adequate documentation of the seriousness of salt water intrusion.
Waste from municipal and industrial sources entering natural streams or reservoirs are responsible for the more visible types of pollution; their detection is rapid, their source can usually be identified, and their elimination will result in rapid natural improvement of water quality. In contrast, the clandestine movement of salt water through a fresh water aquifer continues, defying early detection, concealing its origin, and creating long-term problems with expensive remedies.
MECHANISMS OF INTRUSION
Reversal or Reduction of Gradient
Destruction of Natural Barriers
Disposal of Waste Saline Water
The earth, concealing a lense of fresh water, was uniquely designed so man, requiring fresh water could exist. Then man, in his impatient pursuit of progress, created a demand on this resource exceeding the supply plus natural recharge. Where salt and fresh water zones are hydraulically connected, salt water intrudes as fresh water levels decrease thereby destroying the potability of the aquifer. In areas where subsurface reservoirs thus defied destruction, contaminants have been injected into them, exemplifying man’s continuing disregard for his environment.
Contaminated ground-water reservoirs are not visible, give off no odor, and are not associated with fish kills; consequently, it has been difficult to generate interest in water pollution in the subsurface environment. Slow but sure, degradation of ground water continues while the seriousness of aquifer pollution has often been downgraded by environmentalists and policy makers who have directed their efforts to the more sensational forms of pollution.
Few incidences of salt water intrusion can be attributed to natural phenomena. Man’s activities, primarily pumping more water from an aquifer than can be naturally replenished, are responsible for destroying the hydraulic continuity between fresh and saline waters.
Intrusion problems, created by excessive demands on subsurface reservoirs, are further complicated by natural or man-made avenues for salt water movement.
Faults (Figure 4), unconformities (Figure 5), improper oil exploration (Figure 6), canal construction (Figure 7), and channel dredging all provide areas of possible communication. In many cases, the causes of salt water intrusion are interrelated, complicating their indentification and delaying their remedies. …
MECHANISMS OF INTRUSION
DISPOSAL OF WASTE SALINE WATER
There are several techniques of brine disposal which can result in the contamination of fresh surface or underground water. Saline wastes discharged to a stream or an unlined evaporation pit has the potential of infiltrating into a fresh water zone. Subsurface disposal of pollutants, especially salt water, have created serious problems inland as well as in coastal areas. Since these disposal wells penetrate zones of both fresh and salt water (Figure 6), problems occur when injection wells constructed in old fields, where abandoned wells have been improperly plugged, permit direct communication between the injection zone and the fresh water aquifer. In some areas, the structural consistency of the intervening zone separating the fresh from
the saline formation is inadequate due to natural fracturing, thus permitting vertical intrusion. [Think of the cumulative impacts of the new “brute force and ignorant” frac’ing on hundreds of thousands of energy wells, communication events (frack hits), blow outs, ever increasing frequency and magnitude of earthquakes (caused directly by frac’ing and waste injection), and the massive volumes of frac waste being dumped into pits (lined, leaky lined and unlined), on roads, into water ways and injected into waste disposal wells]
Salt water intrusion affecting the inland part of the United States is largely due to oil exploration.
In search of oil and gas in the United States over one million holes have been drilled which penetrate both fresh and salt water formations; these holes represent an equal number of communication possibilities which could adversely affect ground water.
Documented cases of ground-water pollution from exploration activities lend credence to the fact that, when there are a million chances for failure, failure will occur. In 1963, the Texas Water Pollution Control Board conservatively estimated that for every gallon of oil produced, 2.4 gallons of salt water was recovered.
In 1970, 3.5 x 109 barrels of oil was produced in the United States; these figures will provide an indication of the magnitude of the problem of brine disposal. With the recent threefold increase in the price of crude oil, secondary recovery operations utilizing the salt water injection technique have been drastically increased. This type of production, in addition to a general increase in the national production, will increase the water-oil ratio of produced fluids possibly one order of magnitude.
Various states have enacted laws and published guidelines to prevent pollution from oil exploration and production. Properly followed, these would adequately control pollution from current activities; however, the administration and enforcement of these laws are inadequate in many areas. [Including across Canada, with Saskatchewan and Alberta having the most inadequate “regulators,” and most efficient “deregulators” and pollution enablers.]
Compounding the problem associated with this industry is the lack of technology necessary to locate polluting wells which have been improperly plugged or abandoned. [Industry not creating the technology intentionally and avoiding tracking abandoned wells so that legal responsibility can be more slickly dumped onto the taxpayer?]
Legal responsibility for these wells drilled over the past 50 years cannot be determined, thus the burden of correcting the problem is on the state or landowner.
Salt water intrusion from past or present oil and gas exploration and production creates serious social, economical, and legal problems….
Current technology has failed to provide a means of early detection of
salt water intrusion into potable aquifers. [Again, intentional by the oil and gas industry, enabled intentionally by corrupt politicians and regulators globally?] Case histories are very similar.
Supply wells which had for years produced fresh water for domestic, industrial, or agricultural purposes suddenly turn salty. Detection in most cases occurs after several miles of a fresh water aquifer has been severely contaminated.
The economic feasibility of aquifer reclamation in many cases does not exist.
The ground-water resource must therefore be abandoned and a search for surface
water supply initiated.
Domestic, agricultural, and public water supplies of entire cities have
been destroyed by the various types of salt water intrusion. Multimilliondollar
reclamation projects, funded by taxes or revenue bonds, can be developed by metropolitan areas affected. This avenue of relief does not exist in rural areas since domestic or agricultural supply wells constitute a considerable investment for rural families, the loss of which results in financial chaos.
Abandoned rural homes and productive farmlands provide adequate testimony to this fact.
CURRENT CONTROL EFFORTS
While analyzing water from three new wells near Terre Haute, Indiana, in
1955, it was discovered that the chloride was 550 ppm. Normal concentration
of this aquifer had been about 16 ppm. A local study by the Indiana Department
of Conservation and the U. S. Geological Survey identified the problem as an
unplugged oil test hole 2,000 feet from the supply wells. [Reportedly, there are 65,000 unplugged stratigraphic test holes from the 60’s in Alberta, as well as the hundreds of thousands of energy wells and seismic holes. And then there’s hydraulic fracturing, waste injection, injection for enhanced recovery, and waste dumping (legal and illegal).]
To remedy this problem, the oil test hole was properly plugged and in an effort to evacuate
the salt water from the fresh water aquifer, pumping of the supply wells was
initiated in August 1956. By October 1958, after intermittent pumping of
7,000 hours at 800 gpm, the chloride concentration in the aquifer (14 to 62
ppm) was approaching normal. … [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
2017 07 14: Cumulative impacts from too much toxic oilfield waste dumped in water bodies, “spread” on pastures, cropland and roads? Over 200 cattle found dead in SW Saskatchewan pasture; Tests found 24,000 mg/l sulphate & 33,400 mg/l dissolved solids in dugout water. Chief veterinary officer suggests lack of rain & evaporation to blame ]