Must-Read NY Times Story On Gas Fracking Reveals Radioactive Wastewater Threat

Sat, 2011-02-26 16:11Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Must-Read NY Times Story On Gas Fracking Reveals Radioactive Wastewater Threat

An incredible piece just broke in the New York Times showing that hydraulic fracking in the Marcellus Shale is drawing huge amounts of radioactivity up from the earth with the fracking fluids, often going straight through a municipal waste water treatment plant and then dumped into rivers – above public drinking water intake locations.  The piece proves that EPA knows this is going on, and that it is likely illegal. 

Highly recommended reading for anyone concerned about the real threats posed by this gas industry practice to drinking water, public health and the environment.

DRILLING DOWN: Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

Excerpt on what the NY Times investigation found:

…thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A.and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

Read more at NYTimes.com

Comments

What very few seem to understand is that the shale formations the gas is coming from were classified by the Atomic Energy Commission after WWII in their survey of US uranium resources as the greatest uranium resource that exists in the US.

The same geological process that concentrated the organic material that became the natural gas also concentrated uranium. So they are “fracking” in uranium ore to get gas now, and consequently the water they use which becomes the waste water they have to dispose of, as well as the gas itself, is far more radioactive than the gas industry has ever had to deal with before.

I wrote a post with more detail: http://theenergycollective.com/david-lewis/47970/shale-gas-some-it-hot

David, thank you for the comment and the info about your research into the uranium issue. I’ll check it out and keep it in mind for future posts. Best, Brendan
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In January 2013, Pennsylvania's auditor general announced that he would conduct an investigation into whether state regulators were effectively overseeing the impacts from the shale gas drilling rush.

A year and a half later, the results are in: the state's environmental regulators are failing badly in at least eight major areas, at times declining to cite drillers who broke the law. In a damning...

read more