In January 2013, PA Gov. Tom Corbett announced a 12-month DEP study of radioactive wastewater.
DEP begins fracking radiation tests | Rachel Morgan, Shalereporter.com | Thursday, April 4, 2013
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection this month will begin testing for radioactivity in waste products from natural gas well drilling.
In addition to analyzing wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, the study also will analyze radioactivity in drill cuttings, drilling mud, drilling equipment, treatment solids and sediments at well pads, wastewater treatment and disposal facilities and landfill leachate, among others.
The study also will test radiation levels for the equipment involved in the transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes.
More details on the study:
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday says today’s announcement explains more about the agency’s plans, but right now there’s no reason to believe the public is in any kind of danger.
The agency has hired an outside contractor, Perma-Fix Environmental Services, which will work in conjunction with DEP staff to focus on the quantity of “naturally occurring radioactive materials” (NORM) and ”technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material” (TENORM).
NORM can become TENORM when materials are mixed together, moved, or otherwise changed.
The study will examine seven areas:
- ambient air
- drill cuttings
- natural gas
- natural gas processing pipes and equipment
- waste water generated from drilling sites
- sludge resulting from the processing of waste water from the well pad development process
- landfill leachate
It’s expected to take 12 to14 months. Sampling will begin in mid-April at sites throughout the state, including areas producing “dry” gas in Northern and Central Pennsylvania as well as at least one “wet” gas site in the Southwestern part of the state.
NOTE: Per DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday “There’s nothing out there to indicate the public or industry face any kind of risk of radiation exposure.”
With the DEP’s attitude of “nothing out there…”, can we expect this study to be conducted objectively and scientifically?
Perma-Fix is an integrated nationwide network of treatment, storage and disposal facilities, transportation services, engineering consultants, site remediation teams, and government service centers that provides you with comprehensive, cost effective waste management services.
Perma-Fix does have interests in Natural Gas through their PermaCool Process.
“The PermaCOOL Process(tm) allows facilities such as natural gas compressor stations to recycle their glycol-based coolants,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Sherman, Vice President of Technology and Development for Perma-Fix. “By recycling the coolant on-site, the customer avoids the liability and expense associated with handling, transporting and disposing of a hazardous waste. In addition, the customer saves money by eliminating the need to replace the glycol.”
Click to read Perma-Fix Proposal for Comprehensive Study of NORM at Oil and Gas Exploration Well Pads, Supporting Sites and Waste Water Facilities in PA, submitted on December 17, 2012.
Note the submission date: December 17, 2012 – which means PA DEP was preparing for this study long before and all the while denying (and still denying) there are concerns.
Per Perma-fix proposal: (emphasis added)
Excerpt: Throughout PA many companies perform oil and gas exploration and production activities by conventional and unconventional drilling through various subsurface layers of shale and rock to produce oil and natural gas. The drilling industry production and flowback water, as well as drill cuttings and sources of off gassing, are potentially impacted with NORM and/or TENORM.
Excerpt: Unconventional drilling process water sample results indicate significant concentrations of radium-226(Ra-226) a common NORM radionuclide and the element associated with the natural decay series with the highest mobility.
Excerpt: It is extremely important to understand the movement and exposure pathways of TENORM through the entire oil & gas exploration and production process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In this regard we propose this comprehensive study to have a more complete understanding of TENORM in oil & gas industry and waste disposal operations, and to document and evaluate potential radiation exposure to workers and the public, as well as ensure protection of the environment.
Excerpt: Landfill leachate will also be sampled to study whether radium has migrated from POTW and CWT sludge to the landfill leachate. Any beneficial reuse of any of the oil and gas drilling production media will also be surveyed and sampled as appropriate including but not limited to:
Vertical and horizontal drill cuttings
Onsite pits containing cuttings
Compressed gas lines, Off gassing
Waste water facility sludge
Waste water facility influent and effluent water
Piping and casing scale
DEP PRE-DRILL WATER TESTS VS RADIATION STUDY
According to DEP data regarding the study, among the substances to be tested for are Radium-226, Radium-228, Uranium-238, Uranium-235, Uranium-234, Thorium-232, Radon-220 and Radon-222.
According to PA-DEP Recommended Basic Oil & Gas Pre-Drill Parameters testing for Barium and Strontium are listed, but not Radium-226, Radium-228, Uranium-238, Uranium-235, Uranium-234, Thorium-232, Radon-220 and Radon-222.
With the disparity of the study’s scope compared to DEP pre-drill testing recommendation, you can see why it is easy for the natural gas corporations to deny responsibility.
RADIATION HAS LONG BEEN A CONCERN
Natural Gas Drilling Produces Radioactive Wastewater | Wastewater from natural gas drilling in New York State is radioactive, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink | By Abrahm Lustgarten and ProPublica | November 9, 2009 | Scientific America
(NOTE THE DATE ON THE ARTICLE: November 9, 2009.)
Excerpt: The information comes from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium 226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.
Excerpt: New York’s Health Department raised concerns about the amount of radioactive materials in the wastewater in a confidential letter to the DEC’s oil and gas regulators in July.
Excerpt: “Handling and disposal of this wastewater could be a public health concern,” DOH officials said in the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica. “The issues raised are not trivial, but are also not insurmountable.”
When the issue of radioactivity connected to shale drilling emerged, the natural gas industry and their front groups predictably denied there were any dangers to the public.
According to USGS 2011 report:
Analyses of the water produced with the gas commonly show elevated levels of salinity and radium.
A positive correlation between the logs of TDS and radium activity can be demonstrated for the entire dataset, and controlling for this TDS dependence, Marcellus shale produced water samples contain statistically more radium than non-Marcellus samples.
The connection of radioactivity and shale has been long know, but much ignored and denied.
Related: Fracking – The Elephant in the Gas
©2013 by Dory Hippauf