Energy. Environment. Economy.

PA DEP to Study Radiation Related to Marcellus Shale

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A worker at a frack water recycling plant operated by Cabot Oil and Gas holds up a treated water sample. Gas drillers have begun recycling their waste water, but some part of the waste solids, which can contain radioactive materials, have to be sent to landfills.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plans to study levels of naturally occurring radioactivity in materials associated with oil and gas drilling. The announcement comes  almost two years after a series of reports in the New York Times revealed radioactive waste water from gas drilling was discharged into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. The industry has since stopped the practice, but the DEP says it plans to analyze radioactivity in frack flowback water, drill cuttings, drill mud, and the levels in equipment such as pipes, well casings storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks.

 “This administration is undertaking what will be the most comprehensive study of its kind anywhere, and Gov. Corbett has directed us to do so in order to be proactive for the future and to continue Pennsylvania’s leadership in responsible development of domestic natural gas resources,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said through a press release. “This thorough and rigorous study, which will focus on conditions here in Pennsylvania, is further demonstration that states are best suited to responsibly oversee the natural gas exploration and production activities taking place in our respective borders.

Krancer has repeatedly pushed back against federal oversight when it comes to oil and gas drilling.

The DEP says radioactivity associated with oil and gas waste has been detected at landfills, but not at levels harmful to public health. The agency has hired Perma-Fix Environmental Services to help conduct the study. The study plan will be peer-reviewed by independent researchers.

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, or NORM, are buried beneath the soil across the state. Marcellus Shale contains uranium, thorium, radium-228 and radium-226. The radioactive material can be released through the drilling process in drill cuttings, and flowback water.

A report by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a higher level of radioactivity in Marcellus Shale deposits compared with similar formations in other parts of the country.


  • GrandmasThinking

    Finally! It is long past time of address the amounts of radioactivity being released from the gas drilling operations – whatever the stage! Just how much can go into a landfill and be safe? That is the 24,000 Dollar Question. I live within 9 miles from a landfill and I do not want ANY radioactive materials being stored there!

    This problem should have been addressed and resolved before drilling operations were allowed to begin. Gov Cuomo – I hope you read this article!

  • imforit

    This was predictable. Lately Mr. Krancer has been seen on television urging people to have their homes checked for radon. While radon enters the home in many ways, one of the ways is through the use of natural gas. Supposedly, Marcellus Shale gas has much more radon in it than gas originating from a shallow well. Combine this with the home having pre existing radon entering in some other fashion, I imagine the chances of getting cancer go way up. Lets get all the news out at once, not just the good news dribbled out by our state representatives to make things look good while it’s not the case.

  • Janell

    We are completely sickened by the natural gas fracking that has been going on throughout the northeast. Why are you NOT doing anything to stop this?? It is doing WAY more harm than good, and we are starting to believe, like many other voting Americans that you are for all of this ridiculous greed because we do not see you doing anything to STOP fracking.

    How many Americans have to die just trying to live their heritage on America’s beautiful grasslands and farms. Why are you not putting your foot down? Do you want your kids and grandkids to grow up in an area where there is fracking where the drinking water is flammable?

    Let’s STOP supporting and motivating the greed in this country. How can people ever be proud to be an American when there is so much greed everywhere we look.

    We implore you to put your foot down and stick up for what kind of environment you want YOUR children and grandkids to live in. Please.

    Thanks for your time.

    Janell and Ace

  • Delta

    What about the possibility of some of that radioative material being in the gas itself?

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