It has come to my attention that Marcellus Shale drilling fluids contain trace ammonuts of radium 224, and radium 226 in water samples taken during drilling operations process. Have always known radium existed in Northern Pennsylvania. Seen we bought our house in Monroe County in 1989 home inspector wanted to do radium test on our basement. To anyone's kownledge where is this contaminated water disposed of, and who pays cost? This seems to be a Department of Enviromental Conservation issue, just curious who picks-up the tab for radium contamenated water disposal? And where it is disposed of?

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Comment by Dee Fulton on December 15, 2009 at 11:48am
Here are excerpts from a story that was run by ProPublica. The link for the full story is here:

"As New York gears up for a massive expansion of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, state officials have made a potentially troubling discovery about the wastewater created by the process: It's radioactive. And they have yet to say how they'll deal with it.
The information comes from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.
The findings, if backed up with more tests, have several implications: The energy industry would likely face stiffer regulations and expenses, and have more trouble finding treatment plants to accept its waste -- if any would at all. Companies would need to license their waste handlers and test their workers for radioactive exposure, and possibly ship waste across the country. And the state would have to sort out how its laws for radioactive waste might apply to drilling and how the waste could impact water supplies and the environment. ..........
In comments to ProPublica, the DEC emphasized that the environmental review proposes testing all wastewater for radioactivity before it is allowed to leave the well site, and said that the volumes of brine water, which contain most of the radioactivity detected, would be far less than the volumes of fluid from hydraulic fracturing that are removed from the well. ...............
What scientists call naturally occurring radioactive materials -- known by the acronym NORM -- are common in oil and gas drilling waste, and especially in brine, the dirty water that has been soaking in the shale for centuries. Radium, a potent carcinogen, is among the most dangerous of these metals because it gives off radon gas, accumulates in plants and vegetables and takes 1,600 years to decay. Geologists say radioactivity levels can vary across the Marcellus, but the tests taken so far suggest the amount of radioactive material measured in New York is far higher than in many other places...........
The state took its 13 samples -- 11 of which significantly exceeded legal limits -- between October 2008 and April 2009. The DEC did not respond to questions about whether additional sampling has begun or whether the state would begin issuing drilling permits before the radioactivity issues are resolved. The DEC told ProPublica it did not know where the wastewater would be treated. ...........
People absorb radioactivity in their daily routines, complicating health assessments. Eighty percent of human radioactivity exposure comes from natural sources, according to the EPA. Everything from granite countertops to a pile of playground dirt can emit radioactivity that is higher than the EPA, which regulates based on a theory that zero exposure is best, may prefer........."You start with the world where you and I are getting an exposure from the sun, from the soil we walk on, from the brick in our house that on average is about 400 millirems a year -- which is dangerous," said Tom Lenhart, a former member of the federal-state Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards. "The EPA would never allow that kind of exposure. So you are starting from a baseline of dangerous exposure, and this is what makes regulating it a nightmare."
............All this would be of substantially less concern if New York were like most of the other states that produce some radioactive waste during natural gas drilling. In those states, the waste is re-injected underground. But in New York, injection disposal wells are uncommon, and those that do exist aren't licensed to receive radioactive waste or Marcellus Shale wastewater, according to the EPA. Instead, most drilling wastewater is treated by municipal or industrial water treatment plants and discharged back into public waterways. The radium-laden wastewater would almost certainly need to be carefully treated by plants capable of filtering out the radioactive substances. Kessy, the Fortuna manager, which operates five of the wells with spiked readings in New York, said the levels are higher than he has seen elsewhere. Treatment plants in Pennsylvania are accepting Fortuna wastewater with much lower levels of radioactivity from the company's wells there, Kessy said, but if plants can't take the higher concentrations, it could be crippling.
...........Federal laws don't directly address naturally occurring radioactivity, and the oil and gas industry is exempt from federal laws dictating handling of toxic waste, leaving the burden on New York state. New York has laws governing radioactive materials, but the state's drilling plans don't specify when they would apply.
.................Experts who reviewed the concentrations of radioactive metals found in New York's wastewater said the leftover sludge is likely to exceed the legal limits for hazardous waste and would need to be shipped to Idaho or Washington, to some of the only landfills in the country permitted to accept it. Fortuna's Kessy said that's an acceptable cost of doing business. "We'll be willing, of course, to fund the necessary disposal means," he said.

I encourage fellow shalers to read the full story for details regarding issues relating to further concerns about occupational hazards to gas drilling workers.
Comment by Dave Derrick on December 3, 2009 at 7:06pm
I would doubt that it came from the disposal wells as they are in a much deeper formation.
Radium is a radioactive metal that occurs naturally in trace amounts in rocks, soils, and ground water. As radium decays, it continually releases energy into the environment until a stable, nonradioactive substance is formed. This energy is part of the natural radiation to which all living creatures are exposed. Radium readily dissolves in groundwater where acid conditions (low pH levels) are found. The various forms of naturally occurring radium found in groundwater are radium 224, 226, and 228.

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