Radiation Found in Greene County Stream Near Water Supply
Biologist concerned about residents' health
16 July 2015
By Paul Van Osdol
FREDERICKTOWN, Pa. —Action News Investigates has learned high
levels of radiation -- up to 60 times higher than the maximum
allowed in drinking water -- have been found in a stream that
feeds into a water treatment plant.
The high levels of radiation were found in a Greene County stream
that flows into the Monongahela River. Ultimately, that water ends
up in Pittsburgh.
Ken Dufalla of the Izaak Walton League conservation group has been
taking samples from 10 Mile Creek for years, frequently finding
high levels of total dissolved solids.
“I wouldn't touch it. As you can see, I try to keep my hands
off it all I can because I don't know what's in this water,”
To find out exactly what is in the water, he pressed the state
Department of Environmental Protection to do comprehensive
The results showed levels of radium 226 and radium 228 totaling
327 picocuries per liter at one location, and 301 picocuries per
liter of radium 226 at another location.
In plain English, that means both samples had 60 times the EPA
drinking water standard of 5 picocuries per liter.
“There's something in here that's not supposed to be here,”
Ten Mile Creek feeds into the Mon River near Fredericktown. Less
than a mile down river is a water treatment plant, and that is a
major concern for regulators and area residents.
John Stolz, a biologist at Duquesne University, says radium can be
“The reality is, if it's getting into the water that is
being used as a source of drinking water, then it is a problem,”
One big problem is water authorities cannot easily get rid of
radium through the standard filtering process.
Tests by the Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority last year found
low levels of radium 228 -- just 1 picocurie per liter. But the
authority did not test for radium 226, and it did not do any
radium testing in 2012 or 2013.
It's not just drinking water that's a concern. The Izaak Walton
League canceled plans to stock 10 Mile Creek with trout this year
after consulting with state officials.
“Do you want to eat fish that has radiation in it? It's that
simple,” Dufalla said.
The high radiation levels have area residents alarmed.
“They need to do more testing on it. The government worries
about everything else but the working people,” said Diane Tedrow,
of Morgan Township.
“Somebody needs to come with a solution, obviously. That's
not good to have that high of radiation levels,” said Michael
Karolewicz, of Low Hill.
The Department of Environmental Protection says residents should
not be worried -- for now.
Reporter Paul Van Osdol: “Ten Mile creek does feed right into the
Mon, so you can understand why people would be concerned about
DEP spokesman John Poister: “No question. That's why we're testing
at the drinking water source."
The DEP is concerned enough that it is also doing additional
testing of water, fish and wildlife in the area.
"We're trying to attack this from every possible angle to see what
the extent of the contamination is, if there is extensive
contamination, what it's affecting, and tracking it down,” Poister
The DEP is especially interested in finding the source of the
radiation. Stolz says the test results offer a clue.
“It's highly suggestive that it may be due to drilling operations,
or at least the wastewater,” Stolz said.
Gas industry officials dismiss that theory, saying there is no
evidence that fracking wastewater is being illegally dumped into
abandoned mines or streams. The Marcellus Shale Coalition declined
our request for an interview.
In a statement, coalition President Dave Spigelmyer says the
industry uses the latest technology to "protect our environment
while increasing operational efficiencies. This is especially true
as it relates to the widespread utilization of reuse and recycling
technologies that our members have pioneered and continue to
Whatever the source of the radiation, Dufalla and Stolz said it's
critical to find it and stop it from getting into the water, and
it's not just critical for Greene County.
“That stuff coming out of there will eventually get in your
drinking water in Pittsburgh. Eventually it's going to get there,”
Radium does not go away quickly. The half-life for radium 226 is
1,600 years, meaning even then it will still be half as potent at
it is today.
The DEP hopes to have results of its latest round of testing by