COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kevin Sunday, Department of Environmental Protection
DEP Announces Comprehensive Oil and Gas Development Radiation Study
-- At the direction of Governor Corbett, the Department of
Environmental Protection announced today it will undertake a study to
look at naturally occurring levels of radioactivity in by-products
associated with oil and natural gas development.
In the coming
weeks, DEP will seek a peer review of its study plan and begin to sample
and analyze the naturally occurring radioactivity levels in flowback
waters, treatment solids and drill cuttings, as well as associated
matters such as the transportation, storage and disposal of drilling
DEP routinely reviews radioactivity data in wastes the
oil and natural gas industry and other industries generate, and the
information the agency has obtained to date indicates very low levels of
natural radioactivity. This study, which is expected to take 12 to 14
months, is aimed at ensuring that public health and the environment
continue to be protected.
“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 said. “This thorough and rigorous study, which will focus on
conditions here in Pennsylvania, is further demonstration that states
are best suited to responsibly oversee the natural gas exploration and
production activities taking place in our respective borders.
current regulations and monitoring networks are designed to protect the
public from exposure to unsafe levels of radiation, and our regulations
in this field have led the nation for years,” Krancer said.
agency will collect samples of flowback water, rock cuttings, treatment
solids and sediments at well pads and wastewater treatment and waste
disposal facilities. The study will also analyze the radioactivity
levels in pipes and well casings, storage tanks, treatment systems and
Throughout the study, DEP will provide progress reports to its water, waste, radiation and citizens’ advisory councils.
is the only state that requires through regulation that landfills
monitor for radiation levels in the incoming wastes. Should waste
trigger a radiation monitor, the landfill must use a conservative and
highly protective protocol that DEP developed to determine if the amount
and concentration of the radioactive material can be accepted. This
protocol ensures that the materials, such as Marcellus Shale drill
cuttings and other sources of naturally occurring radiation in the waste
stream, do not pose a risk to public health during disposal.
cuttings and other materials associated with oil and gas have
occasionally triggered radiation monitors at landfills. DEP’s data
indicates 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, 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.
In 2011, DEP also
required 14 public water suppliers to report early the results of
routine monitoring for radioactivity in drinking water. Such monitoring
is required as part of the state’s oversight of public water supplies.
Most results showed no detectable levels of radioactivity, and the
levels that were detectable did not exceed safe drinking water
DEP will work on the study with Perma-Fix
Environmental Services of Pittsburgh, which has worked with the agency
as a consultant on health physics and radiological issues and has
assisted DEP for more than a decade with radioactivity monitoring and
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 viewable.
more information and to view the study proposal and a summary of the
study, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click the “Oil and Gas Development
Radiation Study” button on the front page.
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