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  1. Hydraulic fracturing of deep shale formations generates large volumes of wastewater that must be managed through treatment, reuse, or disposal. Produced wastewater liberates formation-derived radionuclides and contains previously uncharacterized organohalides thought to be generated within the shale well, both posing unknown toxicity to human and ecological health. Here, we assess the toxicity of 42 input media and produced fluid samples collected from four wells in the Utica formation and Marcellus Shale using two distinct endpoint screening assays. Broad spectrum acute toxicity was assessed using a bioluminescence inhibition assay employing the halotolerant bacterium Aliivibrio fischeri , while predictive mammalian cytotoxicity was evaluated using a N -acetylcysteine (NAC) thiol reactivity assay. The acute toxicity and thiol reactivity of early-stage flowback was higher than later produced fluids, with levels diminishing through time as the natural gas wells matured. Acute toxicity of early stage flowback and drilling muds were on par with the positive control, 3,5-dichlorophenol (6.8 mg L −1 ). Differences in both acute toxicity and thiol reactivity between paired natural gas well samples were associated with specific chemical additives. Samples from wells containing a larger diversity and concentration of organic additives resulted in higher acute toxicity, while samples from a well applyingmore »a higher composition of ammonium persulfate, a strong oxidizer, showed greater thiol reactivity, predictive of higher mammalian toxicity. Both acute toxicity and thiol reactivity are consistently detected in produced waters, in some cases present up to nine months after hydraulic fracturing. These results support that specific chemical additives, the reactions generated by the additives, or the constituents liberated from the formation by the additives contribute to the toxicity of hydraulic fracturing produced waters and reinforces the need for careful consideration of early produced fluid management.« less
  2. Wastewater surveillance for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an emerging approach to help identify the risk of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. This tool can contribute to public health surveillance at both community (wastewater treatment system) and institutional (e.g., colleges, prisons, and nursing homes) scales. This paper explores the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from initial wastewater surveillance efforts at colleges and university systems to inform future research, development and implementation. We present the experiences of 25 college and university systems in the United States that monitored campus wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 during the fall 2020 academic period. We describe the broad range of approaches, findings, resources, and impacts from these initial efforts. These institutions range in size, social and political geographies, and include both public and private institutions. Our analysis suggests that wastewater monitoring at colleges requires consideration of local information needs, sewage infrastructure, resources for sampling and analysis, college and community dynamics, approaches to interpretation and communication of results, and follow-up actions. Most colleges reported that a learning process of experimentation, evaluation, and adaptation was key to progress. This process requires ongoing collaboration among diverse stakeholders including decision-makers, researchers, faculty, facilities staff, students, and communitymore »members.« less
  3. ABSTRACT Bacteria of the phylum Verrucomicrobia are prevalent and are particularly common in soil and freshwater environments. Their cosmopolitan distribution and reported capacity for polysaccharide degradation suggests members of Verrucomicrobia are important contributors to carbon cycling across Earth’s ecosystems. Despite their prevalence, the Verrucomicrobia are underrepresented in isolate collections and genome databases; consequently, their ecophysiological roles may not be fully realized. Here, we expand genomic sampling of the Verrucomicrobia phylum by describing a novel genus, “ Candidatus Marcellius,” belonging to the order Opitutales . “ Ca. Marcellius” was recovered from a shale-derived produced fluid metagenome collected 313 days after hydraulic fracturing, the deepest environment from which a member of the Verrucomicrobia has been recovered to date. We uncover genomic attributes that may explain the capacity of this organism to inhabit a shale gas well, including the potential for utilization of organic polymers common in hydraulic fracturing fluids, nitrogen fixation, adaptation to high salinities, and adaptive immunity via CRISPR-Cas. To illuminate the phylogenetic and environmental distribution of these metabolic and adaptive traits across the Verrucomicrobia phylum, we performed a comparative genomic analysis of 31 publicly available, nearly complete Verrucomicrobia genomes. Our genomic findings extend the environmental distribution of the Verrucomicrobia 2.3 kilometersmore »into the terrestrial subsurface. Moreover, we reveal traits widely encoded across members of the Verrucomicrobia , including the capacity to degrade hemicellulose and to adapt to physical and biological environmental perturbations, thereby contributing to the expansive habitat range reported for this phylum. IMPORTANCE The Verrucomicrobia phylum of bacteria is widespread in many different ecosystems; however, its role in microbial communities remains poorly understood. Verrucomicrobia are often low-abundance community members, yet previous research suggests they play a major role in organic carbon degradation. While Verrucomicrobia remain poorly represented in culture collections, numerous genomes have been reconstructed from metagenomic data sets in recent years. The study of genomes from across the phylum allows for an extensive assessment of their potential ecosystem roles. The significance of this work is (i) the recovery of a novel genus of Verrucomicrobia from 2.3 km in the subsurface with the ability to withstand the extreme conditions that characterize this environment, and (ii) the most extensive assessment of ecophysiological traits encoded by Verrucomicrobia genomes to date. We show that members of this phylum are specialist organic polymer degraders that can withstand a wider range of environmental conditions than previously thought.« less
  4. Hydraulic fracturing requires the injection of large volumes of fluid to extract oil and gas from low permeability unconventional resources ( e.g. , shale, coalbed methane), resulting in the production of large volumes of highly complex and variable waste fluids. Shale gas fluid samples were collected from two hydraulically fractured wells in Morgantown, WV, USA at the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL) and analyzed using ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry to investigate the dissolved organic sulfur (DOS) pool. Using a non-targeted approach, ions assigned DOS formulas were analyzed to identify dominant DOS classes, describe their temporal trends and their implications, and describe the molecular characteristics of the larger DOS pool. The average molecular weight of organic sulfur compounds in flowback decreased and was lowest in produced waters. The dominant DOS classes were putatively assigned to alcohol sulfate and alcohol ethoxysulfate surfactants, likely injected as fracturing fluid additives, on the basis of exact mass and homolog distribution matching. This DOS signature was identifiable 10 months after the initial injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid, and an absence of genes that code for alcohol ethoxysulfate degrading proteins ( e.g. , sulfatases) in the shale well genomes and metagenomes support that these additivesmore »are not readily degraded biologically and may continue to act as a chemical signature of the injected fluid. Understanding the diversity, lability, and fate of organic sulfur compounds in shale wells is important for engineering productive wells and preventing gas souring as well as understanding the consequences of unintended fluid release to the environment. The diversity of DOS, particularly more polar compounds, needs further investigation to determine if the identified characteristics and temporal patterns are unique to the analyzed wells or represent broader patterns found in other formations and under other operating conditions.« less
  5. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and polypropylene glycols (PPGs) are frequently used in hydraulic fracturing fluids and have been detected in water returning to the surface from hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells in multiple basins. We identified degradation pathways and kinetics for PEGs and PPGs under conditions simulating a spill of produced water to shallow groundwater. Sediment-groundwater microcosm experiments were conducted using four produced water samples from two Denver-Julesburg Basin wells at early and late production. High-resolution mass spectrometry was used to identify the formation of mono- and di-carboxylated PEGs and mono-carboxylated PPGs, which are products of PEG and PPG biodegradation, respectively. Under oxic conditions, first-order half-lives were more rapid for PEGs (<0.4–1.1 d) compared to PPGs (2.5–14 d). PEG and PPG degradation corresponded to increased relative abundance of primary alcohol dehydrogenase genes predicted from metagenome analysis of the 16S rRNA gene. Further degradation was not observed under anoxic conditions. Our results provide insight into the differences between the degradation rates and pathways of PEGs and PPGs, which may be utilized to better characterize shallow groundwater contamination following a release of produced water.