Fracking Wastewater In PA Contains Radioactive Contaminants

  • October 02, 2013
  • Blog

Researchers have published a study that fracking wastewater downstream of a plant in Western Pennsylvania is dangerously high in radioactivity, salts and metals. The study was performed over the last two years by a team led by Avner Vengosh, Ph.D., a professor at Duke University.

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The study measured the levels of contaminants in water and sediment both upstream and downstream of a fracking wastewater plant near Blacklick Creek. Measurements showed that sediments downstream from the fracking plant contained 200 times more radium than mud that was naturally present upstream of the plant.

Water discharged by the plant was also measured. It was found to be 200 times saltier than what is allowed under the Clean Water Act and 10 times saltier than ocean water. However, according to Dr. Vengosh fracking wastewater is exempt from that law. 

There are significant health concerns with exposure to high levels of radioactive materials like radium, in addition to other contaminants such as bromide. This study did not focus on those affects but rather the amounts of contaminants present.  

This should be of great concern not just to all Pennsylvania residents but anyone who may be potentially affected by fracking wastewater across the country. Radium, a radioactive element, is a naturally-occurring metal found in certain rock.  However, it needs to be determined whether fracking extracts radium from bedrock and allows radioactive materials to be discharged into the environment. 

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

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