In Fredericktown, Pennsylvania, water that feeds into a Pittsburgh treatment plant has been found to contain more than 60 times what is considered the safe level of radiation.
We wouldn’t even know this if it weren’t for one concerned citizen—Ken Dufalla, part of a local conservation group—who has been testing a local creek for years. He brought his concerns to the EPA and pressed for testing.
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,” Dufalla said.
The water Dufalla tested? It’s from Ten Mile Creek, which eventually feeds into a nearby water treatment plant. Not surprisingly, it’s not good to have 60 times the maximum allowed radium in drinking water, and it’s not something that’s easy to filter out. Drinking water is just one concern. There’s also the fish swimming in radium-tainted water to worry about.
Gee, what could be the reason for all this radiation in Pennsylvania water?
“It's highly suggestive that it may be due to drilling operations, or at least the wastewater,” Stolz [a biologist at Duquesne University] 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.
Oh, well, if the gas industry officials said it, it has to be true, right?
Radiation in the water is a pretty BFD.
“That stuff coming out of there will eventually get in your drinking water in Pittsburgh. Eventually it's going to get there,” Dufalla said.
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.
This is nothing new, though. Tests proved even higher levels of radiation were present in Pennsylvania’s streams two years ago thanks to fracking wastewater
In the state of Pennsylvania, home to the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, 74 facilities treat wastewater from the process of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) for natural gas and release it into streams. […]
Recently, a group of Duke University scientists decided to do some testing. […] “Eventually, we just went and tested water right from a public area downstream.”
Their analyses, made on water and sediment samples collected repeatedly over the course of two years, were even more concerning than we’d feared. As published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they found elevated concentrations of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations within sediments in particular were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition, amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal.
Just last week, fracking in Pennsylvania was linked to higher rates of cancer, skin conditions, heart disease and neurological problems.
But calm down, guys.
The energy industry and proponents of fracking say the technology can be used safely and that fears of pollution and health risks are overblown.