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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impacts of Glutaraldehyde on Microbial Community Structure and Degradation Potential in Streams Impacted by Hydraulic Fracturing.


The environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, particularly those of surface spills in aquatic ecosystems, are not fully understood. The goals of this study were to (1) understand the effect of previous exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluids on aquatic microbial community structure and (2) examine the impacts exposure has on biodegradation potential of the biocide glutaraldehyde. Microcosms were constructed from hydraulic fracturing-impacted and nonhydraulic fracturing-impacted streamwater within the Marcellus shale region in Pennsylvania. Microcosms were amended with glutaraldehyde and incubated aerobically for 56 days. Microbial community adaptation to glutaraldehyde was monitored using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and quantification by qPCR. Abiotic and biotic glutaraldehyde degradation was measured using ultra-performance liquid chromatography--high resolution mass spectrometry and total organic carbon. It was found that nonhydraulic fracturing-impacted microcosms biodegraded glutaraldehyde faster than the hydraulic fracturing-impacted microcosms, showing a decrease in degradation potential after exposure to hydraulic fracturing activity. Hydraulic fracturing-impacted microcosms showed higher richness after glutaraldehyde exposure compared to unimpacted streams, indicating an increased tolerance to glutaraldehyde in hydraulic fracturing impacted streams. Beta diversity and differential abundance analysis of sequence count data showed different bacterial enrichment for hydraulic fracturing-impacted and nonhydraulic fracturing-impacted microcosms after glutaraldehyde addition. These findings demonstrated a lasting effect on microbial community structure and glutaraldehyde degradation potential in streams impacted by hydraulic fracturing operations.

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