Friday, February 19, 2010

Is flowback and waste from gas drilling radioactive?

This is a reposting of an article writtent by Sharon Corderman - but I get this question alot.

Rewards and Risks of the Marcellus
Part I in a series
By Sharon Corderman
Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 2:46 PM CST

Claims have been made that the potential exists for some level of radioactive material to be in the wastewater and drill cuttings coming from the Marcellus shale. According to Peter Davies, professor of biology at Cornell University, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reported that brine samples taken from 12 Marcellus wells that were actively producing gas last year came back with higher than expected levels of “NORM” - naturally occurring radioactive material. In fact, some brines were reported to have levels of radium-226 as high as 250 times the allowable level for discharge into the environment and thousands of times higher than the maximum allowed in drinking water.
The Penn State School of Forest Resources released a water guide for landowners in 2008 that warns that “gas well waste fluids usually contain levels of some pollutants that are far above levels considered safe for drinking water supplies. As a result, even small amounts of pollution from waste fluids can result in significant impacts to nearby drinking water supplies.” Bryan Swistock a Penn State water resources extension specialist who prepared the guide, said that there is not a large risk, “but the idea that there is no risk, which is what some people will say, is far from the truth.”
“It is especially important to understand the potential radioactivity of wastes that may be disposed of in areas that are located close to residences or public facilities such as schools,” wrote Lisa Sumi in a May 2008 report prepared for the Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “For example,” she continued, “during drilling, there may be a large volume of radioactive Marcellus shale rock removed (in other words, the drill cuttings), especially from horizontally drilled wells. If these rock wastes are disposed of by on-site burial or land-spreading, the radioactivity may become an issue for those living nearby. Radioactive wastes should be taken to a facility that is designed to handle low-level radioactive waste.”
In recommendations to the New York DEC for the handling and disposal of these radioactive wastes, Professor Davies stated that while these NORM wastes are known as “naturally occurring” it should be emphasized that such materials are not normal just because they are naturally occurring at thousands of feet below the surface. “On the surface they are not part of the normal environment and should be treated as hazardous,” he said.

My Comments

1. Yes the shale may be more radioactive then some of the rocks near the surface, but the cutting are properly handled and disposed.

2. I believe we have more low level radiological waste from the medical community and we still not have not addressed the issue of spent fuel rods.

3. Radon in Air - this is already a problem and concern for much of PA - You should have your Radon in Air Level Checked NOW - Website Reference

4. If levels of radiological elevated, this would suggest that the brine water should be returned to the ground via deep well injection.

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