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33 Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:15 am

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By Rachel Morgan rmorgan@shalereporter.com | 0 comments

Its contents remain mostly a mystery. But fracking wastewater has revealed one of its secrets: It can be highly radioactive. And yet no agency really regulates its handling, transport or disposal. First of a four-part series on radiation in fracking wastewater. PORTAGE, Pa. -- Randy Moyer hasnt been able to work in 14 months.
Photo by Mark William Branciaroli for The Ledger/

Tanker trucks like this one pictured in Buckhannon, W.Va., haul brine from fracking sites.

Hes seen more than 40 doctors, has 10 prescriptions to his name and no less than eight inhalers stationed around his apartment. Moyer said he began transporting brine, the wastewater from gas wells that have been hydraulically fractured, for a small hauling company in August 2011. He trucked brine from wells to treatment plants and back to wells, and sometimes cleaned out the storage tanks used to hold wastewater on drilling sites. By November 2011, the 49-year-old trucker was too ill to work. He suffered from dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty breathing, swollen lips and appendages, and a fiery red rash that covered about 50 percent of his body. They called it a rash, he said of the doctors who

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Fracking wastewater can be highly radioactive - Ellwood City Ledg...

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HARRISBURG -- 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 Corbetts 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) its more cost-efficient for them to recycle. (While the DEP did say that the departments 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 governors 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

Moyer spent most of last year in his Portage apartment, lying on the floor by the open screen door because his skin burned so badly, while doctors scrambled to reach a diagnosis. He says the only thing that has helped ease his symptoms is a homeopathic tea recommended by others in the community who have similar symptoms. Today, he has a box brimming with doctors bills but still no diagnosis. Moyer believes hes sick from the chemicals in fracking fluid and the ensuing wastewater -- and from radiation exposure. And he may be right. Studies from the U.S. Geological Survey, Penn State University and environmental groups all found that waste from fracking can be radioactive -- and in some cases, highly radioactive. A geological survey report found that millions of barrels of wastewater from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania and conventional wells in New York were 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water and 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for nuclear plant discharges. And Mark Engle, the USGS research geologist who co-authored the report, said that fracking flowback from the Marcellus shale contains higher radiation levels than similar shale formations.

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There (isnt) a lot of data but in general, the Marcellus appears to be anomalously high, Engle said. He said the USGS had agreements with a handful of oil and gas companies to sample the flowback from their wells for this particular report. These companies, he said, did not wish to be identified. Engle also says that both the Marcellus shale itself and the wastewater generated from fracking are both radioactive, but he doesnt know just how much radium the shale contains. He said it may be fairly small, since radium is so soluble. But he also said this solubility would make it easier for the radium to dissolve into the brine itself -- and come to the surface. The USGS is still studying the issue. They are currently sampling -- or testing -- produced waters from all types of oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota and Montana, including those from the Marcellus shale. A few more reports are in the works, Engle said.

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

also found that fracking wastewater contains high levels of radium -- and barium. The study, written by Penn State alum Lara Haluszczak, professor emeritus Arthur Rose, and professor and head of the Department of Geosciences Lee Kump, describes the radium and barium found in fracking flowback as originating from ancient brines instead of the fracking fluid used by the industry to frack wells. The report, which focused on flowback within 90 days of fracking in primarily Pennsylvania wells, has been approved for publication in the International Association of Geochemistrys journal Applied Geochemistry. Even if its (radioactive materials) diluted quite a bit, its still going to be above the drinking water limits, Rose told Penn State Live, the universitys official news source. Theres been very little research into this. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has an eye on the issue. In December, the agency released the progress report of a full report studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. In it, the EPA says it plans to sample ground and surface water for radium-226, radium-229 and gross alpha and beta radiation, as well as other substances. It also says that hydraulic fracturing can increase the mobility of naturally occurring radioactive material within the Marcellus. The full report is scheduled for a 2014 release. Another report, issued by the New York-based Grassroots Environmental Education by Ivan White, a career scientist for the National Council on Radiation Protection, came to a similar conclusion as the USGS and Penn State reports, maintaining that fracking can produce waste much higher in radiation than previously thought. Whites report tested 11 vertical wells that were conventionally drilled in New York and found that levels of radium in those wells averaged at 8,433 picocuries per liter. The EPAs limit for drinking water is 5 pCi/L for both radium-226 and radium-228 combined. While the vertical wells tested and horizontal wells used for fracking are undoubtedly different, both White and Engle say that horizontal wells have a higher chance of producing radioactive waste than their vertical counterparts, because horizontal wells exposure to the Marcellus is much greater, due to the mile-long horizontal bores coursing straight through the radioactive shale. Whites report was written in response to proposed

Who measures this stuff?


While Pennsylvanias Department of Environmental Protection keeps track of where each gallon of wastewater ends up, officials say the DEP does not measure radium concentrations in fracking wastewater. Instead, they encourage water treatment facilities that accept the brine to test for high levels of radium. Drilling companies are also required to file a 26R waste characterization form with the state DEP when they dispose of fracking wastewater, said Mark Engle, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist. Every time a company disposes of produced water from Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania they are supposed to file a 26R waste characterization form with the DEP, Engle said. As such, there should be hundreds of these forms filed. However, our colleague had students go to the various DEP offices and scan all of the 26R forms they could find. There were far fewer than we were expecting. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister said these reports are not exclusive to the oil and gas industry. The 26R form is not an oil and gas report but a chemical analysis annual report form filed by generators of residual waste, he said. The form is used by DEP to track and determine the amount of residual wastes generated in the state. According to Poister, residual waste is considered by the DEP to be nonhazardous substances generated by businesses and industries in Pennsylvania. While its not considered to be hazardous waste, necessary storage, handling, transportation and disposal are necessary to public health and the environment, he said. About 20 million tons of residual waste is produced annually, he said. But Poister did say that the 26R form includes waste products like asbestos, PCBs and some radioactive elements (such as) Radium 224 and Radium 226. If these substances are not property disposed of, they could potentially cause some

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Fracking wastewater can be highly radioactive - Ellwood City Ledg...

http://www.ellwoodcityledger.com/news/local_news/fracking-wast...

Neighbors Obituaries Sports Your School Entertainment Lifestyles Coupons Print Ads Another common way of disposing of fracking wastewater is by sending the water out of state to So where does this leave Pennsylvanians? With the injection wells, usually to Ohio. However, neither states 4,500 producing wells, Pennsylvania is already Pennsylvania nor Ohio measures levels of radiation much deeper into the business of fracking than the in fracking wastewater when its extracted from a Empire State. well or disposed of in an injection well. Another issue are the discrepancies between the way radioactive fracking waste is treated and radioactive nuclear waste is treated. NRC's regulations require that every drop of water and every molecule of air discharged from a plant be monitored for radiation, said Dave Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists after reading Whites report. If high levels are detected, plants must be able to terminate the release to keep discharges within federal limits. And owners must submit annual reports to the NRC that detail every curie of various radioisoptes released to the environment. In short, the nuclear industry must account for every bit of radioactive waste it produces. The gas and oil industry falls under no such restriction -- and remember, the USGS report that found that that millions of barrels of fracking wastewater was 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges. DEP officials say its because of the differences in the way these two different types of wastes are disposed of. Most nuclear power plants use surface water for both (cooling) supplies as well as for discharge, but their treatment has to meet NRC requirements, since surface waters are used downstream for public water supplies and possibly private supplies, too, Poister said. Experts say the issue of radioactive fracking wastewater isnt a new one. A lot of research and technology has gone into developing the current oil and gas development techniques, so it doesnt make sense that we have so many unknowns when it comes to the radioactive content of the waste and its proper disposal, said Adam Kron, a lawyer for Environmental Integrity Project. Engle agrees. The regulators and industry certainly knew both the rock and water are radioactive, he said. Many of And Poister does -- if reluctantly -- admit there could be some fracking wastewater finding its way into waterways. And that means more potentially radioactive fracking waste to deal with. A 2011 Penn State Extension report says an average Marcellus well can use from 3 million to 8 million gallons of water in just one week, 10 percent of which -- or 300,000 to 800,000 gallons -- resurfaces in the next 30 days in the form of wastewater. It also says that according to Pennsylvanias DEP data, the industry produced about 235 million gallons of wastewater in the second half of 2010. These numbers were self-reported by the industry. So just where do these millions of gallons of wastewater end up? The water can be treated and used to frack more wells, sent out of state for disposal in injection wells, or in rare cases, treated and released into waterways, officials say. Secretary (Michael) Krancers call to industry secured, nearly overnight, a sea change in disposal practices, said DEP spokesman John Poister of the department secretarys 2011 request to the drilling industry to stop delivering wastewater to treatment plants that would treat the water and release it into public water sources. Wastewater from unconventional wells is not being discharged into waterways, (and) recycling of unconventional flowback and brines has never been higher, Poister said. He also said most of the industrys fracking wastewater is reused to frack more wells. But Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus campaign coordinator for Clean Water Action, isnt convinced. I cant say for certain that there are plants definitely taking wastewater and discharging it, he said. Certainly there are discharges happening from facilities that raise concerns, especially among the upper Allegheny (River). Hvozdovich declined to identify specific facilities. Is it possible they are taking natural gas wastewater? he said. Yes, but I dont know that for a fact.

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Energy project. From that and previous work, it was shown that the rocks are very high in uranium, as is common for most organic rich shales.

What are total dissolved solids?


According to DEP spokesman John Poister, total solids are dissolved solids plus suspended and settleable solids in water. In stream water, dissolved solids consist of calcium, chlorides, nitrate, phosphorus, iron, sulfur, and other ions particles that will pass through a filter with pores of around 2 microns (0.002 cm) in size. Suspended solids include silt and clay particles, plankton, algae, fine organic debris, and other particulate matter. These are particles that will not pass through a 2-micron filter.

statewide waste reports bears that out. Drillers would have to pay to have the water treated for discharge into waterways, (so) its more cost-efficient for them to recycle. There is some wastewater from other drilling activities and other sources that is discharged after treating, which is why under the states Clean Water Act, Pennsylvanias DEP issues National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to treatment facilities. These permits are required to be issued under the Federal Clean Water Act and establish pollution limits in both household and industrial wastes that are treated at municipal wastewater treatment plants, DEP data says. In order to be discharged, the water must fall within the agencys 500 mg/L of total dissolved solids regulation and also have a NPDS permit. But environmentalists say these treatment plants simply arent equipped to deal with radioactive wastewater. As fracking has rapidly expanded, were seeing much more of this radioactive waste, which is a problem, since traditional landfills and wastewater treatment plants arent accustomed to handling it, said Adam Kron, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. In fact, wastewater treatment plants arent able to remove radioactivity, and were starting to hear accounts of landfills receiving -- and sometimes turning away -- radioactive cuttings and sand from across state lines. And as for Moyer, there are five recently permitted wells near his home in Portage. He plans to leave the area, if not for himself, then for his 7-year-old son. He doesnt think his body can take more exposure to fracking and its effects. Its time to move if you want to live, he said. Stay if you want to die. And I want to live. Next up: Whos in charge of regulating this stuff, anyway?

What is radium and why is it found in the Marcellus shale?


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal formed by the decay of the uranium and thorium that is found in the Marcellus. Radium can be found in many types of rock, soil, water, plants and animals and emits different types of radiation. Long-term exposure can be harmful to humans, the EPA says. The Radium-226 found in the Marcellus shale has a half-life of 1,600 years -- meaning it can remain radioactive for 16,000 to 32,000 years. After it decays, Radium-226 forms the gas Radon-222, which has a half-life of 3.8 days.

What is a picocurie?
A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie. A curie is a measure of radioactivity based on the observed decay rate of about a gram of radium. The average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L. The average outdoor radon level is 0.4 pCi/L.

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2014 Ellwood City Ledger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Published in Local news on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:15 am.

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