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Molly McLaughlin
Molly McLaughlin

PhD Student
Colorado State University

Molly McLaughlin is a PhD candidate in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University. In 2011, she graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Environmental Chemistry. She is interested in the energy-water nexus and her PhD research has focused on oil and gas wastewater characterization, treatment and reuse. She is a CSU Sustainability Leadership Fellow, a founding member the Northern Colorado Graduate Women in Science and a member of the Fort Collins Climate Action Plan Community Advisory Committee.



Engineered Wetlands for Onsite Treatment of Oil and Gas Produced Water Discharges

Produced water (PW) is the largest waste stream associated with oil and gas operations. This complex fluid contains petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, salts, radioactive materials and any remaining chemical additives. West of the 98th meridian, the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) exemption allows release of PW for agricultural beneficial reuse. Contents and concentrations of chemicals in PW vary by location and time. As a result, treatment strategies vary, and PW NPDES releases are poorly characterized.

This study aimed to assess efficiency of engineered wetlands for onsite treatment of PW. Additionally, discharge streams were characterized using chemical analyses and toxicological bioassays. Water samples were collected from three NPDES discharges and surrounding watersheds in a Wyoming oil field. Results showed that contaminants of concern, including BTEX and radium, were elevated at the discharge. Bioassays revealed higher chronic toxicity than implied by chemical analysis. Attenuation of hydrophilic compounds increased significantly in wetlands.

Co-Authors: McLaughlin, M.1; Borch, T.1,2; Argueso, J.L.3; Blotevogel, J.1

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