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CBM NH4 and NO3

In case you needed another reason to dislike coal-bed methane development. “Some coal-bed methane water flowing into the Powder River of northeast Wyoming contains potentially dangerous levels of ammonia, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey.”  Ammonia is a naturally-occurring organic compound that is found in all surface waters. High concentrations of ammonia can cause fish kills. Luckily, the report found that the ammonia is fairly quickly absorbed by plants and converted to nitrate. Oh, did I mention, nitrates are a dangerous pollutant as well? Nitrate is the primary ingredient of fertilizer. It can cause algal blooms in rivers and lakes and has been shown to be a major problem in pollution of estuaries, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, where the end result of algal blooms is huge dead zones due to the depletion of dissolved oxygen. Nitrates cause an increase in growth of algae and plants in water and a decrease in plant diversity. The report says that, “Even low concentrations of ammonia can fertilize pristine rivers as added nitrogen, causing unwanted plant and algal growth.” High levels of nitrate in drinking water are very poisonous, causing potentially fatal oxygen levels in babies (known as “blue-baby syndrome”), spontaneous abortions, and possibly cancer. But then, you’d have to be pretty desperate to drink CBM discharge water.

Excess nitrogen and phosporus are the most common pollutants in U.S. surface waters due to over-fertilization of farmland, atmospheric deposition from burning fossil fuels and from human and animal waste. So, I guess a little more toxic chemical from a few methane wells won’t be very noticeable. Sorry, make that billions of gallons from thousands of coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River basin alone. Algal blooms are already a big problem in some areas of Montana. Flathead Lake has seen blooms of blue-green algae in recent years due mostly to atmospheric deposition and the contribution of sewer systems and thousands of septic systems. Maybe a few CBM wells north of the border won’t be noticed all that much.


One Response

  1. I noticed that we got over a half million in federal money to mitigate salinity contamination at the Hailstone Reservoir, down there near the Tongue.

    More taxpayer dollars subsidizing coal bed methane…gee, no wonder it’s such a viable industry….

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