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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2014 Mar;33(3):525-31. doi: 10.1002/etc.2452. Epub 2014 Feb 6.

Acute toxicity of sodium bicarbonate, a major component of coal bed natural gas produced waters, to 13 aquatic species as defined in the laboratory.

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US Geological Survey, Jackson, Wyoming, USA.


Water produced during coal bed natural gas (CBNG) extraction in the Powder River Structural Basin of Wyoming and Montana (USA) may contain concentrations of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) of more than 3000 mg/L. The authors evaluated the acute toxicity of NaHCO3, also expressed as bicarbonate (HCO3(-)), to 13 aquatic organisms. Of the 13 species tested, 7 had a median lethal concentration (LC50) less than 2000 mg/L NaHCO3, or 1300 mg/L HCO3(-). The most sensitive species were Ceriodaphnia dubia, freshwater mussels (Lampsilis siliquoidea), pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), and shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus). The respective LC50s were 989 mg/L, 1120 mg/L, 1249 mg/L, and 1430 mg/L NaHCO3, or 699 mg/L, 844 mg/L, 831 mg/L, and 1038 mg/L HCO3(-). Age affected the sensitivity of fathead minnows, even within life stage. Two days posthatch, fathead minnows were more sensitive to NaHCO3 and HCO3(-) compared with 4-d-old fish, even though fish up to 14 d old are commonly used for toxicity evaluations. The authors recommend that ion toxicity exposures be conducted with organisms less than 24 h posthatch to ensure that experiments document the most sensitive stage of development. The results of the present study, along with historical and current research regarding the toxicity of bicarbonate, may be useful to establish regulatory standards for HCO3(-). This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.


Acute toxicity; Bicarbonate; Early lifestage sensitivity; Produced waters; Sodium bicarbonate

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