News

Peer-reviewed DEP oil and gas report: “little potential for harm to workers or the public from radiation exposure”

Jan 15, 2015

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently concluded a multi-year, peer-reviewed study on TENORM that indicated there is “little potential for exposure for communities and workers from oil and gas development.” The regulatory agency called the report “the most comprehensive radiological study of the oil and gas industry ever conducted.”

From the DEP’s release:

“(the DEP’s) TENORM study, 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 DEP began studying these issues in January 2013 and looked at flowback waters, treatment solids and drill cuttings; as well as transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes - to “ensure that public health and the environment continued to be protected.”

Regarding the report, Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmyer said:

“We welcome DEP’s exhaustive analysis, which reflects the Commonwealth’s rigorous and effective regulations. The report demonstrates the industry’s focus on environmental compliance and its across the board commitment to the safety and public health of our workers, the communities where we’re privileged to operate and our environment. Sound research like this, as well as the industry’s own forthcoming NORM study, play an important role in guiding and informing the policymaking process, which is best served by actual facts and science. The new research also further proves that NORM-related issues continue to be effectively and well-managed by both the industry and DEP.”

 
To read the DEP’s complete report click here. The Marcellus Shale Coalition also compiled additional resources:  

  • Pa.: No red flags over radioactivity in 7 rivers: Tests of water in Pennsylvania downriver from sewage treatment plants that handle wastewater from natural gas drilling raised no red flags for radioactivity, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Monday. All of the samples, taken in November and December, showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity, the agency said. All samples also showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228, it said. (AP, 3/7/11)
  •  New Tests Confirm Marcellus Development Not Impacting Pa. Waterways (MSC blog, 5/18/11)
  • At Tervita’s Westmoreland Landfill in Belle Vernon, the operators say the loads are rarely above the level of radioactivity present in our surroundings at all times. “We understand that people are concerned when they hear radioactivity. But, what people need to know is there is background radiation everywhere from your countertop to your banana peel,” Cam Hantiuk said. (KDKA-TV, 12/10/13)
  • The average chest X-ray emits 4,000 microrem, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which is 600 times the radiation found in the drill cuttings. (Youngstown Vindicator, 1/28/12)
  • In Pennsylvania, where the state does keep track, more than 9.3 million tons of cuttings and sludge were dumped at 24 landfills in 2013.The waste had acceptable, low levels of radioactivity, said Lisa Kasianowitz, an Ohio Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman. … “There’s radon in granite countertops,” said former Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/27/14)
  • Radiation levels in the Marcellus shale itself are sufficiently low that they are not expected to affect the public or drill site workers…Overall, it is unlikely that the general public will ever come into contact with NORM in any significant concentrations. (Paleontological Research Institution, 8/11)