Wastewater Disposal Wells, Fracking, and Environmental Injustice in Southern Texas

Am J Public Health. 2016 Mar;106(3):550-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.303000. Epub 2016 Jan 21.

Abstract

Objectives: To investigate race and poverty in areas where oil and gas wastewater disposal wells, which are used to permanently inject wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations, are permitted.

Methods: With location data of oil and gas disposal wells permitted between 2007 and 2014 in the Eagle Ford area, a region of intensive fracking in southern Texas, we analyzed the racial composition of residents living less than 5 kilometers from a disposal well and those farther away, adjusting for rurality and poverty, using a Poisson regression.

Results: The proportion of people of color living less than 5 kilometers from a disposal well was 1.3 times higher than was the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites. Adjusting for rurality, disposal wells were 2.04 times (95% confidence interval = 2.02, 2.06) as common in areas with 80% people of color or more than in majority White areas. Disposal wells are also disproportionately sited in high-poverty areas.

Conclusions: Wastewater disposal wells in southern Texas are disproportionately permitted in areas with higher proportions of people of color and residents living in poverty, a pattern known as "environmental injustice."

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Hydraulic Fracking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Texas
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Waste Water / statistics & numerical data*

Substances

  • Waste Water