Waste-water from a hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania that is treated and released into local streams has caused high levels of toxic contamination, including elevated levels of radioactive materials, a report released Wednesday exposes.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of radioactivity” downstream from the plant, said co-author Avner Vengosh, geochemistry professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “It’s unusual to find this level,” he told USA Today, adding that other sites should be investigated.
The Guardian reports:
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The report, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology by a group of Duke University researchers, states that fracking waste water disposal methods pose a great threat to human and environmental health, particularly gas companies that send waste to treatment sites that are currently allowed to release treated water into local streams.
Shale gas production, i.e. fracking, is currently exempt from certain rules within laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act due to the “Halliburton loophole” pushed through by former Vice-President/former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney. Frackers are allowed to monitor their own waste production and largely avoid any regulated restrictions.
According to the researchers, radium levels in the Pennsylvania stream sediments where waste-water was discharged were about “200 times greater than upstream and background sediments and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bio-accumulation in localized areas of shale gas waste-water disposal.”
“Each day, oil and gas producers generate 2 billion gallons of waste-water,” said co-author Robert B. Jackson, Duke professor of environmental science, Tuesday. “They produce more waste-water than hydrocarbons. That’s the broader implication of this study. We have to do something with this waste-water.”
“The use of fossil fuels has a direct climate connection,” he said. “Hundreds of billions of gallons of waste-water is a consequence of our reliance — our addiction — to fossil fuels. That’s another price we pay for needing so much oil and gas.”
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