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Journal of Chemistry
Volume 2015, Article ID 957608, 6 pages
Research Article

Rapid Analysis of Eukaryotic Bioluminescence to Assess Potential Groundwater Contamination Events

1Department of Biology and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019, USA
2Inform Environmental, LLC, Dallas, TX 75206, USA
3Assure Controls Inc., Vista, CA 92081, USA
4Water Quality Protection Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Dallas, TX 75202, USA
5SWCA Environmental Consultants, Arlington, TX 76006, USA
6Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc., Carrollton, TX 75006, USA

Received 17 February 2015; Revised 24 May 2015; Accepted 28 May 2015

Academic Editor: Athanasios Katsoyiannis

Copyright © 2015 Zacariah L. Hildenbrand et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Here we present data using a bioluminescent dinoflagellate, Pyrocystis lunula, in a toxicological bioassay to rapidly assess potential instances of groundwater contamination associated with natural gas extraction. P. lunula bioluminescence can be quantified using spectrophotometry as a measurement of organismal viability, with normal bioluminescent output declining with increasing concentration(s) of aqueous toxicants. Glutaraldehyde and hydrochloric acid (HCl), components used in hydraulic fracturing and shale acidization, triggered significant toxicological responses in as little as 4 h. Conversely, P. lunula was not affected by the presence of arsenic, selenium, barium, and strontium, naturally occurring heavy metal ions potentially associated with unconventional drilling activities. If exogenous compounds, such as glutaraldehyde and HCl, are thought to have been introduced into groundwater, quantification of P. lunula bioluminescence after exposure to water samples can serve as a cost-effective detection and risk assessment tool to rapidly assess the impact of putative contamination events attributed to unconventional drilling activity.