Newspapers Reveal Lax Regulation of Radioactive Marcellus Wastewater

by Duane Nichols on February 28, 2011

Many US EPA scientists are alarmed, warning that drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania as well as in West Virginia. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by a US EPA consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law. US EPA studies and a confidential study by the drilling industry have revealed significant dangers from the radioactive material. 

The New York Times has reviewed  more than 30,000 pages of federal, state and company records relating to more than 200 gas wells in Pennsylvania, 40 in West Virginia and 20 public and private wastewater treatment plants. Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.  Federal drinking water standards were exceeded by 42 wells for their radium content and 41 for their benzene content. 

This newspaper report was also carried in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The NY Times has provided an interactive video entitled “Extracting Natural Gas from Rock” and a continuous video clip is  titled ”Natural Gas and Polluted Air“.  An interactive map is also provided that specifies locations where radioactive wasterwater samples have been measured.  And, more detailed information is provided in a spreadsheet titled “Contaminants in Samples From More Than 200 Wells.”

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