Monday, November 9, 2009

Gas Drilling Produced Waste Water Radioactive! Update

After I originally posted this article about New York, I remembered last year, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe from the Denton Record Chronicle, did an article on NORM. Naturally occurring radioactive material. The link to her article is at the bottom.

Now Abrahm Lustgarten did an article in ProPublica talks about this dangerous aspect of gas drilling. The produced water is radioactive!!!

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation studied 13 samples of waste water that was brought up to the surface from drilling. The level of radium 226, this level is 267 times the limit for safe discharge into the environment and thousands of times higher than the limit safe for humans to drink. Below are a few paragraphs in red from the article.

As New York gears up for a massive expansion of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, state officials have made a potentially troubling discovery about the wastewater created by the process: It's radioactive. And they have yet to say how they'll deal with it.

The information comes from New York'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.

The industry may be putting their own employees at risk of future health concerns

Measuring human exposure -- which is quantified in doses of millirems per year -- from radiation is notoriously difficult, in part because it depends on variables like whether objects interfere with radiation, or how sustained exposure is over long periods of time.

Gas industry workers, for example, would almost certainly face an increased risk of cancer if they worked in a confined space where radon gas, a leading cause of lung cancer and a derivative of radium, can collect to dangerous levels. They would also be at risk if they somehow swallowed or breathed fumes from the radioactive wastewater, or handled the concentrated materials regularly for 20 years.

Here is the real problem. The gas and oil industry is exempt from the federal laws for handling toxic waste in addition to the many other exemptions only they receive!!

Federal laws don't directly address naturally occurring radioactivity, and the oil and gas industry is exempt from federal laws dictating handling of toxic waste, leaving the burden on New York state. New York has laws governing radioactive materials, but the state's drilling plans don't specify when they would apply.

The Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe from the Denton Record Chronicle article about NORM last year.
This paragraph stuck out.

One factor is that organic-rich shale such as the Barnett Shale has higher levels of uranium. Another factor is the high level of salt in the wastewater produced along with the gas. As a gas well is producing, the variable pressure also helps free NORM from the shale, bond with other elements, such as barite and calcium carbonate, and travel to the surface along with the gas.

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