15Spills, Forensic Evaluation, and Case Studies

15.1 Introduction

Spill studies provide information on the likelihood of soil and groundwater impacts related to unconventional oil and gas operations. To evaluate environmental impacts of spills and leaks, evidence needs to be collected. Examples of the types of evidence to prove environmental impacts and damages can come from a variety of sources: photographs or documents identifying a chemical release, groundwater geochemistry that matches the contaminants found in the air or subsurface with a source of those industrial compounds, laboratory analytical reports identifying industrial chemicals in groundwater, visually stained soil that matches the fluid leakage from an aboveground storage tank, reliable eyewitness reports of spills and leaks verified with photographs and written reports, interviews with knowledgeable persons, and regulatory agency inspection reports. This chapter will explore spills and methods used for forensic evaluation and present a number of case studies.

15.2 Spill Studies

Spill studies were performed to evaluate the number of spills associated with drilling and production activities at states with active unconventional oil and gas operations. Common spill pathways have been documented (Figure 15.1; Table 15.1). Because the Williston Basin in North Dakota, Montana, and nearby states and provinces is so distant from the refineries on the east and gulf coasts and pipeline access is limited, rail is the ...

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