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More evidence on the radioactivity of oil and gas wastewater

Amy Mall

Posted November 15, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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EnergyWire has reported on new research from the U.S. Geological Survey which found that applying oil and gas wastewater to roads for de-icing in the winter has lead to accumulation of radium as well as other contaminants along roadsides.  

The USGS found that the Appalachian Basin, which used to be the source of  6.2 million barrels of oil and gas wastewater per year, is now producing an additional 29 million barrels of wastewater needing treatment per year.

According to EnergyWire, the USGS examined roads in Vernon Township, Pennsylvania, where wastewater is sprayed on roads in the winter. Gravel deposits near roads showed elevated levels of radium-226 as well as elevated levels of strontium and sodium.  

According to USGS, "more work is needed to fully understand the unintended consequences of produced waters management." We could not agree more. Since the environmental impacts are not fully understood, regulators should not be allowing oil and gas waste to be disposed of in the open environment. NRDC has long called for all oil and gas waste to be governed by our nation's hazardous waste rules. Currently, oil and gas waste is exempt from those rules, an outrageous situation that endangers public health and the environment.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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