July 22, 2014

PA DEP Backtracks on Radiation Issue

PA announces plans to study the effects of radiation in natural gas drilling wastewater
By Rachel Morgan, timesonline, Jan. 26, 2013

The idea is only as good as the company, the requested scope (including how and where testing is done) and the review of the draft study.

CLICK HERE to see the PA DEP’s details of their proposed study.

In related news: Pennsylvania DEP shelves more stringent water test. The state is not using its most stringent test to review for contaminants in residential drinking water near Marcellus shale drilling. For more than four years, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has had the ability to test for 45 contaminants in its water-sample analysis. However, they are actually testing for fewer than half the number of substances.


For months, the state Department of Environmental Protection denied that radiation in wastewater from natural gas drilling was an issue. On Thursday night, the state announced plans to study the effects of radiation in natural gas drilling wastewater.

After continued questioning by Shale Reporter regarding radioactivity in wastewater, Gov. Tom Corbett’s announcement of a 12-month DEP study of radioactive wastewater was a surprise. The DEP had consistently denied radiation was even an issue.

When Shale Reporter earlier asked if the state measured fracking wastewater for radioactivity, the DEP replied: “There is no concerted effort that our Radiation Protection Program is aware of concern measuring radium concentrations or activities in brine.”

When asked if the state tried to prevent potentially radioactive water from making its way into waterways, the DEP said officials “believe most wastewater is recycled … Drillers would have to pay to have the water treated for discharge into waterways, (so) it’s more cost-efficient for them to recycle.” (While the DEP did say that the department’s secretary had called on the industry to stop sending fracking wastewater to treatment plants that would discharge it into waterways, there was no requirement to do it.)

We asked if the DEP is regulating the transport of radioactive brine, the response was that the DEP is in charge of the “handling, transport, disposal, storage and recycling of brine.” But still, the DEP confirmed that it did not measure the brine for elevated levels of radiation.

We asked if the DEP had seen any studies that found brine to be highly radioactive, the response was that officials were “not aware of any evidence to suggest flowback contains dangerous amounts of radiation,” despite several reports to the contrary by environmental groups and one by the U.S. Geological Survey.

In the governor’s unexpected announcement Thursday evening, DEP officials said they will begin sampling and analyzing fracking flowback for radioactivity, testing everything from fracking wastewater, drill cuttings, treatment solids and sediments at well pads and wastewater treatment and disposal facilities.

They also plan to analyze radioactivity in pipes, well casings, storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks.