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Spring 2018

Inquiry Magazine Archive


Water Worries

Pathogenic bacteria found in groundwater near fracking sites 

Bacteria in a petri dish

UTA chemists have discovered dangerous pathogens in the groundwater near several natural gas extraction sites.

"Our research revealed that harmful bacteria can be quite prevalent in Texas groundwater, especially waters that contain various chemical contaminants," says Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry Kevin Schug. In two new studies, he and his team tested private water wells in the Barnett Shale areas of North Texas and Eagle Ford Shale areas of South Texas, focusing on characterizing the microbial communities in the groundwater.

They found that pathogenic bacteria can thrive in contaminated conditions where natural gas constituents and chemical solvents are present. Moreover, these bacteria are particularly resistant to antibiotics and traditional forms of disinfection, such as chlorination. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Aeromonas hydrophila were the most common, and the Bacillus cereus group was found to be immune to chlorination. The results were published in Science of the Total Environment.

Dr. Schug, who also serves as the director of the University's Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, or CLEAR, Lab says the next phase is to "evaluate novel treatments against these dangerous pathogens and to develop safe strategies for the remediation of biologically impaired sources of fresh water."

In a related study published in the journal Microorganisms, he and his team identified two unique species of bacteria, Pseudomonas stutzeri and Acinetobacter haemolyticus, that could be exploited for the bioremediation of groundwater that is contaminated with chemical solvents. The bacteria showed a capacity to degrade toluene and chloroform, introducing the possibility that they can be potentially used in the bioremediation of spills.

More articles from this issue

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