Pa. DEP to Study Radioactivity in Oil and Gas Equipment, Waste
The State Journal
24 January 1013
By Pam Kasey
Radioactivity on oil and gas industry equipment and in industry
waste will be the subject of a study by the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection, the agency announced Jan.
The study recognizes concerns that have been raised about
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, or NORM.
Oil and gas extraction long has been known to sometimes deposit
NORM on equipment and in wastes, generally at very low levels and
generally unregulated and unmanaged. Parts of the Marcellus Shale
have been found to result in higher levels of NORM than oil and
gas activity in other areas.
PADEP said it routinely reviews radioactivity data in wastes the
oil and gas industry and other industries generate and has found
only very low levels.
In the new study, the agency will collect samples of flowback
fluid, rock cuttings, treatment solids and sediments at well pads,
wastewater treatment and waste disposal facilities. It also will
analyze the radioactivity levels in pipes and well casings,
storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks.
"This administration is undertaking what will be the most
comprehensive study of its kind anywhere, and Gov. Corbett has
directed us to do so in order to be proactive for the future and
to continue Pennsylvania's leadership in responsible development
of domestic natural gas resources," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer
Drill cuttings and other materials associated with oil and gas
occasionally have triggered radiation monitors at landfills, the
agency said. Data indicate that less than half a percent of all
drill cuttings produced by the Marcellus Shale industry in 2012
that were disposed of in landfills triggered radiation monitors.
The cuttings did not contain levels of radioactivity that would be
harmful to the public, the agency said, and they were safely
disposed of in the landfills.
In 2011, DEP announced the results of in-stream radiation water
quality monitoring for seven rivers in Pennsylvania. The monitors
were placed downstream of treatment plants that had been
discharging treated Marcellus Shale wastewater, a now defunct
practice as a direct result of DEP's call to industry to cease
delivery of wastewater to plants that were not equipped to fully
treat it. The in-stream monitoring results showed that
radioactivity levels in all seven rivers were at or below normal
background levels and below federal safe drinking water standards.
DEP will work on the study with Perma-Fix Environmental Services
The agency will consult with independent members of academia to
peer review the project's detailed study plan. Once the peer
review is complete, DEP will publish the study plan on its
website, where the agency's proposal for the study is currently
The study is expected to take 12 to 14 months.
For information and to view the study proposal and a summary of
the study, visit http://www.dep.state.pa.us
and click the "Oil and Gas Development Radiation Study" button on
the front page.