Issue Date: October 7, 2013
Study Warns Of Fracking Water Contaminants
Duke University researchers have found elevated levels of radioactivity, salts, and metals in water and sediments in a western Pennsylvania creek where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged. The discharge is from a brine treatment facility that processes shale natural gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/es402165b). The researchers found radium levels in sediments downstream of the treatment facility to be about 200 times as high as those in sediments upstream of the plant. The report noted that radiation levels in the water discharge were within legal industrial limits. However, the researchers said radium levels concentrated in sediments near the plant’s outfall would be acceptable only at a licensed radioactive disposal facility. Earlier research found that fracking wastewater in the Marcellus Shale region, where the creek is located, is usually high in salinity and radioactivity. Gas industry officials note that Pennsylvania public water treatment plants voluntarily stopped receiving wastewater from fracking operations in 2011, but private companies in the area still accept such wastewater.
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