An article by Tony Rutherford was posted yesterday on the HuntingtonNews.Net so as to analyze the information on radioactive matter in drinking water due to drilling the Marcellus shale for natural gas. He surveys articles from 2009 and 2010 in the New York Times. Then he reports:
The EPA document (National Enforcement & Compliance Strategy Information Background for Energy Extraction FY 2010 Draft”) said that “(the) Region III States impacted are those in which Marcellus Shale formation is present: most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia … Hydraulic fracturing is also used for coal bed methane extraction, a long existing activity in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and possibly Maryland. “Each frac operation requires 3-5 million gallons of frac water, most of which returns to the surface containing dissolved minerals.”
Of major concern are the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), radionuclides and frac additive chemicals. The “characterizations of radionuclides and frac additives is incomplete,” the report found “assimilative capacity in many Region 3 surface wells is insufficient for discharge of high TDS loads and the secondary MCL for TDS for drinking water systems have been exceeded on (a number of) occasion(s) in the Monongahela River basin.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established National Primary Drinking Water Regulations that set mandatory water quality standards for drinking water contaminants. These are enforceable standards called “maximum contaminant levels” or “MCLs”, which are established to protect the public against consumption of drinking water contaminants that present a risk to human health. An MCL is the maximum allowable amount of a contaminant in drinking water which is delivered to the consumer .
In addition, EPA has established National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations that set non-mandatory water quality standards for 15 contaminants. EPA does not enforce these “secondary maximum contaminant levels” or “SMCLs.” They are established only as guidelines to assist public water systems in managing their drinking water for aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color and odor. These contaminants are not considered to present a risk to human health at the SMCL. These include Aluminium at 0.2 mg/L, Iron at 0.3 mg/L, Chloride at 250 mg/L, Sulfate at 250 mg/L, and TDS at 500 mg/L. [Here the milligrams per liter (mg/L) is equivalent to "parts-per-million" (ppm).]
So after considerable study of these issues, it is clear that greater protection is needed for the general public in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, particularly in the Monongahela River watershed and increasingly so in the Ohio River valley, for the protection of ground water and drinking water. These have been assets of major signficance in the past and of critical importance to our future, as for future generations. We need a strong EPA and an active WV-DEP and PA-DEP if progress on water quality achievement is to take place.