Drill baby Drill! Our children will pay for this in who knows what ways :( Grrrrrrr!
Radiation in Pennsylvania creek seen as result of fracking waste
Naturally occurring radiation brought to the surface by gas drillers has been detected in a Pennsylvania creek that flows into the Allegheny River, illustrating the risks of wastewater disposal from the boom in hydraulic fracturing.
Sediment in Blacklick Creek contained radium in concentrations 200 times above normal, or background levels, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The radium, along with salts such as bromide, came from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility about 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh, a plant that treats wastewater from oil and gas drilling.
"The absolute levels that we found are much higher than what you allow in the U.S. for any place to dump radioactive material," Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and co-author of the study, said in an interview. "The radium will be bio-accumulating. You eventually could get it in the fish."
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking has been blamed for contaminating streams and private water wells after spills from wastewater holding ponds or leaks from faulty gas wells. The report exposes the risks of disposing of the surging volumes of waste from gas fracking. The EPA is developing new standards for disposing of gas drilling waste.
For decades, Pennsylvania disposed of wastewater from oil and gas drilling at commercial treatment plants that discharged into rivers and streams. A natural-gas boom bought on by fracking in a geologic formation called the Marcellus Shale led to a 570 percent increase in the volume of drilling wastewater since 2004, according to Brian Lutz, assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
In fracking, millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to shatter rock and free trapped gas. As much as 80 percent of the fluid returns to the surface along with radium, and salts such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, bromide.
Water treatment "has been Pennsylvania's go-to method for decades," Lutz said in an interview. With fracking "we were seeing these systems being overwhelmed. They were just taking too much waste leading to water quality problems."
While earlier studies have identified radiation in drilling wastewater, today's report is the first to examine the long-term environmental impacts of dumping it in rivers. Proper treatment can remove a substantial portion of the radioactivity in wastewater, though it does not remove many of the other salts, including bromide, Vengosh said.
"Our findings indicate that disposal of wastewater from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations has degraded the surface water and sediments," Nathaniel Warner, a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth College and co-author of the study, said in a statement. "This could be a long-term legacy of radioactivity."
Blacklick Creek is a tributary of the Conemaugh River, which flows into the Allegheny. In 2011, regulators found high levels of bromides in western Pennsylvania rivers, prompting some plants that supply Pittsburgh and other cities to change the way they treat drinking water.
Bromide, which is not toxic, can combine with disinfectants used at drinking water treatment plants to produce cancer- causing compounds. Radium is a naturally occurring metal that can accumulate in plants and animals and be transferred through the food chain to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"We're getting better at reducing the amount of wastewater produced by shale gas wells, but the total wastewater volume continues to grow rapidly," Lutz said. "There simply isn't disposal infrastructure in place."
How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong. Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these. GeorgeWashingtonCarver