Radioactive Drilling Wastes Rejected in PA Dumped in WV

by Duane Nichols on May 29, 2014

Trucks Haul Marcellus Waste

Rejected Penna. drilling waste brought to W.Va.

From an Article by Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette, May 29, 2014

Two months ago, Range Resources trucked two small containers of waste from its natural gas drilling operations in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to a local landfill. Officials from the Arden Landfill in Chartiers turned away the material, when their normal monitoring turned up higher levels of radioactivity than Pennsylvania deems acceptable for normal landfill disposal. After storing the waste at its well sites, Range Resources earlier this week hauled it to West Virginia, where it was accepted for disposal at the Meadowfill Landfill near Bridgeport.

Waste Management, which operates Meadowfill, never tested the material’s radioactivity levels. The facility doesn’t even have the equipment to do so.

West Virginia doesn’t yet require radioactivity monitoring of natural gas drilling waste that’s taken to the state’s landfills. Lawmakers created such a requirement, but the mandate passed earlier this year doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, noted Lisa Kardell, a spokeswoman for Waste Management.

Local citizens and environmental groups, concerned about the impacts of the Marcellus Shale gas boom in northern West Virginia, have pointed to the potential for radioactive waste as one potential problem. The radioactivity monitoring requirement passed as part of a Tomblin administration bill aimed at avoiding a conflict between the huge influx of drilling wastes and West Virginia’s longstanding limits on landfill tonnage.

Naturally occurring radioactive materials, known as NORMs, exist in shale formations. When disturbed by human activity, such as gas production, these materials become what are called technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials, or TENORMs. They can be found in drill cuttings, “flowback” water that is returned to the surface after being used to break apart shale formations and release gas, brine wastes, and natural gas itself.

Last year, a legislatively mandated study by West Virginia University cautioned that some samples of drilling wastes contained levels of radiation that violated federal drinking water standards. Department of Environmental Protection officials dismissed those findings, saying there was no route for the wastes to enter drinking water supplies.

John Poister, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the material in question was two containers of flowback sludge. Poister said its radioactivity was measured at 212 microrems, which is above the 150-microrem level at which Pennsylvania recommends normal landfills not accept drilling waste.

Kardell, the Waste Management spokeswoman, issued a prepared statement that said “before accepting drilling waste at Meadowfill landfill, all required tests are performed and documentation is submitted to the WVDEP for approval.”

But, the statement noted, “current regulations [in West Virginia] do not require radiation monitors to detect levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials.” Legislation passed this year requires such monitors to be installed by Jan. 1, 2015, Kardell noted.

Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia DEP, said that her agency is in the process of writing rules to implement that new law. An emergency rule is expected to be issued perhaps as early as next month.

Gillenwater noted that Waste Management operates both the Pennsylvania landfill that rejected the material and the West Virginia facility that accepted it. She said that the company said about 12 tons of the material were disposed of at the Meadowfill site.

“The WVDEP ordered Waste Management to stop accepting this material at Meadowfill until the agency gets more information on why it was rejected at the Arden Landfill in Pennsylvania,” Gillenwater said.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

R. Scott Mick May 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

America used to be the bread basket to the world. We as Americans have a chance to lead by example by exploring renewable energy and protecting our land, air, and water. The problem is there is so much finance absorbed by the shale industry that it creates desperate economics.

We have seen good and bad financial times in the U.S. but we always had the option to feed people via agriculture. We at one point could live on very little money because we raised food and livestock. We had options and our land, air and water to fall back on when the all mighty dollar stumbled. With the lack of regulation and environmental issues related to this energy these options may not be there.

Now we have to worry about all of the contaminates brought to the surface and where it is disposed of. In the beginning it was ”Energy Independence” but now there are many companies wanting to export. How does that make us independent?

When our soil, water and air is contaminated where do we farm and who supplies our food? The only real ”Energy Independence” is renewable and there are jobs to follow.

In my opinion we should explore renewable energy, encourage agriculture and recognize our true wealth that is not on paper. Our land, air, and water — these are things money can’t replace, furthermore these are things that made America the land of opportunity.


Pittsburgh P-G Update May 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm
Two more drilling sites found with Marcellus Shale sludge radioactivity in Washington County; DEP sees no threat

From an Article by Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 27, 2014

Range Resources has confirmed that Marcellus Shale drilling sludge with radioactivity content too high for normal landfill disposal is stored at two more of its drilling pads in Washington County.

Waste containing higher radioactivity levels is being temporarily held by Range at the Melechi pad and the MCC pad in Smith, near Mount Pleasant. Earlier this month, drilling sludge from Range Resources’ Carter drill pad and impoundment in Mount Pleasant was also found to have higher radioactivity readings.

PA-DEP spokesman John Poister said the stored waste doesn’t present a health threat to nearby workers or residents.

In March, Range trucked the drilling waste to the Arden Landfill in Chartiers, Washington County, but the landfill rejected the shipment after it set off alarms at the gate, indicating its higher radioactivity reading, Mr. Poister said.

The DEP said radioactivity levels of the two red metal boxes on the Melechi pad were measured at 212 microrems. Range said the radioactivity level of the MCC pad waste was also at “about 200 microrems an hour.”

Range obtained a Department of Transportation exemption from PA-DEP on March 1 that allowed it to transport the loads back to the pad where they originated.

State oil and gas regulations give Range one year to remove the waste bearing radioactivity from the drill pad sites where it is being stored in large metal containers properly identifying their radioactivity content, but Mr. Pitzarella said he expects disposal of the Melechi waste material this week.

Mr. Poister said the DEP is encouraging landfills to enforce radioactivity rules. “We’ve been talking to landfills and encouraging them to reject loads with radioactivity higher than 150 microrems because we want more thought given to how we handle this and what goes into landfills. It’s something we feel is necessary given the oil and gas boom.”

He said it’s “not uncommon” for wastewater to have picked up natural radiation washed from the underground shale formation. Normal background radiation in the area is between six and eight microrems.

He said Range told the DEP it has not yet determined where the loads of higher radioactivity materials will be disposed. Range must alert DEP 72 hours before the radioactive loads are moved, notify the department of the final disposal site and provide receipts


Buffalo News 5-29-14 May 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Another Voice: Radioactive drilling waste poses a serious threat

By David Kowalski, Buffalo NY News, May 29, 2014

The Marcellus Shale contains radioactive materials, including radium and radon. Normally, the radioactive material is safely buried deep underground. However, shale gas drilling and fracking bring radioactivity in solids and liquid wastewater to the surface, posing a risk to public health if not properly managed.

Radium and radon can cause cancer if ingested or inhaled. Radium causes leukemia and bone cancer. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

In 2009, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation found radium levels in Marcellus Shale wastewater that are thousands of times greater than that allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, and up to 267 times the limit for safe discharge into the environment.

Exemptions from key federal regulations allow gas industry solid and liquid waste to pass as “non-hazardous.” However, solid drilling waste from Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale has triggered radiation alarms at landfills. This waste has been imported by New York landfills. Liquid leachate from landfills is sent to waste treatment plants unequipped to monitor or remove radioactive materials, threatening drinking water sources.

Recently, a peer-reviewed scientific paper reported radium levels of 200 times background in Pennsylvania’s Blacklick Creek sediments downstream of a fracking wastewater treatment plant. The gas industry has not identified methods to clean up the wastewater and safely dispose of the radioactive material removed.

The NY-DEC permits the spreading of salty wastewater (brine) on roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization as well as on land for dust control. However, because of the possible presence of radioactive materials, such applications of wastewater should not be permitted in the absence of testing for radioactive materials.

Radium and radon in waste from shale gas drilling and fracking pose a serious threat to public health, although the cancers induced can take years to develop. In light of lax monitoring of radioactivity by the industry and the states, as well as the absence of safe methods for waste treatment and disposal, the public should demand that the NY State Legislature pass laws banning this hazardous waste in order to protect our water, land, air and health.

Public input is more important than ever given heavy campaign contributions to state legislators from the natural gas industry.

>>> David Kowalski, Ph.D., is a retired cancer researcher and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. <<<


Ann June 3, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Wow. The world is upside down. This is not a “left or right” political issue. This is our health we’re talking about. And it’s being destroyed.


Associated Press 6/15/14 June 15, 2014 at 11:45 pm

Low radiation found in sludge dumped at Harrison County landfill

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A state environmental official says Marcellus shale drilling sludge dumped at a landfill in Harrison County has a low level of radiation.

Division of Water and Waste Management director Scott Mandirola tells The Exponent Telegram that the sludge contains a fraction of a year’s acceptable radiation exposure for workers.

Mandirola says Waste Management won’t be cited for dumping the sludge at its Meadowfill landfill.

Another Waste Management landfill in Pennsylvania had rejected the sludge.

Mandirola says inspectors with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection checked the sludge at the Meadowfill landfill with radiation detectors. He says it measured 20 microrems per hour above natural radiation levels.

He says the federally acceptable exposure level for radiation workers is 5 rems per year, or 570 microrems per hour.


GW Hope July 9, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Why is WV always the dumping site for any state, is it the money, or are we just considered the commode of the USA, why? Why have we been the poorest and the most backward state making us the laughing stock for everyone else.


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