Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has completed its radiation study and, yet again, the science dispenses with another fractivist myth.
We love it when we get to close a loop – especially this one. Exactly two years ago, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), under then Secretary Mike Krancer, embarked on what would become a two-year, top to bottom, “thorough and rigorous” study of radiation in shale drilling. That is, they would use real science to figure out whether we will all, as the anti-drillers claim, begin to glow in the dark from exposure to radiation in wastewater, radiation in drill cuttings and radiation in “fracked gas” as they frequently prattle on about.
The 200-page DEP study is complete. What did the DEP conclude in their “peer reviewed” study? “There is little potential for harm to workers or the public from radiation exposure due to oil and gas development.” That is, the DEP says all of these wild-eyed claims of radiation poisoning are false.
That’s not to say there aren’t some places that need more study, or that there’s a zero percent chance of some harm in extreme circumstances. But for all intents and purposes, the risk of exposure to radiation is about as close as you can come to zero without calling it zero. It is a non-issue.
Here’s the press release from the DEP announcing the completed study:
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the results of its TENORM Study, which analyzed the naturally occurring levels of radioactivity associated with oil and natural gas development in Pennsylvania. While the study outlines recommendations for further study, it concluded there is little potential for harm to workers or the public from radiation exposure due to oil and gas development.
“The study report is the culmination of a multi-year effort and represents what we believe to be the most comprehensive radiological study of the oil and gas industry ever conducted,” Vince Brisini, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation said. “While the recommendations for future actions contained in the report call for additional studies and efforts, we now have data to inform the management of natural gas resources and resultant wastes for environmental and health protection.”
In January 2013, at the direction of Gov. Tom Corbett, DEP began studying radioactivity levels in flowback waters, treatment solids and drill cuttings, as well as transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes. This included a study of radon levels in natural gas to ensure that public health and the environment continue to be protected.
In summary, the peer-reviewed study concluded that:
- There is little potential for additional radon exposure to the public due to the use of natural gas extracted from geologic formations located in Pennsylvania.
- There is little or limited potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from the development, completion, production, transmission, processing, storage, and end use of natural gas. There are, however, potential radiological environmental impacts from fluids if spilled. Radium should be added to the Pennsylvania spill protocol to ensure cleanups are adequately characterized. There are also site-specific circumstances and situations where the use of personal protective equipment by workers or other controls should be evaluated.
- There is little potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public at facilities that treat oil and gas wastes. However, there are potential radiological environmental impacts that should be studied at all facilities in Pennsylvania that treat wastes to determine if any areas require remediation. If elevated radiological impacts are found, the development of radiological discharge limitations and spill policies should be considered.
- There is little potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from landfills receiving waste from the oil and gas industry. However, filter cake from facilities treating wastes could have a radiological environmental impact if spilled, and there is also a potential long-term disposal issue. TENORM disposal protocols should be reviewed to ensure the safety of long-term disposal of waste containing TENORM.
- While limited potential was found for radiation exposure to recreationists using roads treated with brine from conventional natural gas wells, further study of radiological environmental impacts from the use of brine from the oil and gas industry for dust suppression and road stabilization should be conducted.
Editor’s Note: It’s worth reading some of the detail from this comprehensive report, particularly Chapter 9.0 entitled “Observations and Recommendations.” It is a virtual litany of conclusions “there is little potential” for harm from radiation connected with natural gas development or use. Compare the facts from this comprehensive study to some of the hysterical nonsense being financed by the likes of the William Penn Foundation, the Park Foundation, et al.
Delaware Riverkeeper: “The environmental impacts of natural gas drilling include…water quality (hydrofracking chemicals, radioactive and highly toxic wastewater, drilling muds and cuttings, waste solids and residuals that results from the well development process)…
DEP Report: “There is little potential for exceeding public dose limits from external gamma radiation during the drilling phase of natural gas wells…There is little potential for additional Rn exposure to workers and members of the public during the flowback phase of unconventional natural gas wells…There is little potential for radiological exposure to workers and members of the public from the handling, hauling, and temporary storage of vertical drill cuttings on natural gas well sites…There is little potential for radiological exposure to workers and members of the public from handling, hauling, and temporary storage of horizontal drill cuttings on natural gas well sites.”
Food & Water Watch: “Toxic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and radioactive material also become concentrated in sludge at the bottoms of waste pits and in sludge and scale deposits within equipment, such as within pipes and tanks. Radiation from these concentrated wastes, or from the rock cuttings brought to the surface during drilling, is setting off detectors at the gates to landfills. Massive quantities of low-level radioactive wastes pass through these detectors, whether operational or not, and get dumped in landfills, if they are not first spilled beside a road on the way to a landfill.”
DEP Report: “There is little potential for radiological exposure to workers and members of the public from leachate at landfills…There is little difference in the radium detected in the leachate from the nine landfills selected based on the volume of O&G industry waste accepted and from the 42 other landfills…There is little potential for radiological exposure to workers and members of the public from handling and temporary storage of filter cake at landfills that accept O&G waste for disposal…There is little potential for radiological exposure to workers and members of the public from sediment-impacted soil at landfills that accepted O&G waste for disposal….There is little potential for additional Rn exposure to workers and the members of the public at or from landfills that accept O&G waste for disposal…There is little potential for members of the public exceeding the public dose limit from exposure to Ra in O&G brine-treated roads.
Will the facts change the strategy for these folks? No, only the tactics. They’ll just pick up on another line of attack. Nonetheless, as Jim, notes, it’s very satisfying when the truth prevails, meaning we should always welcome studies of this sort and, indeed, ask for them. That’s a normal part of the continuing research that improves the technology as we proceed. Now, if someone will just pass this onto Howard Zucker at the New York State Department of Health…
Check out what else is new at NaturalGasNow today!