Last week's release of a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection study confirmed there's little harm in the naturally occurring levels of radioactivity associated with oil and natural gas development. The TENORM study is the culmination of a multi-year effort and represents what we believe to be the most comprehensive radiological study of the oil and gas industry ever conducted," says Vince Brisini, DEP deputy secretary.
In January 2013, DEP began studying radioactivity levels in flowback waters, treatment solids and drill cuttings, as well as transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes. And, it looked at radon levels in natural gas.
The peer-reviewed study concluded:
• There's little potential for additional public radon exposure due to natural gas extracted from Pennsylvania geologic formations.
• There are, however, potential radiological environmental impacts from fluids if spilled. Radium should be added to the Pennsylvania spill protocol to ensure cleanups are adequately characterized.
• While there's little potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public at facilities that treat oil and gas wastes, environmental impacts that should be studied at all facilities that treat wastes to determine if any areas require remediation.
• There's little potential for radiation exposure from landfills receiving oil and gas industry wastes. However, filter cake from waste treatment facilities could have a radiological environmental impact if spilled, and there's also a potential long-term disposal issue.
• Limited potential was found for radiation exposure to recreationists using roads treated with brine from conventional natural gas wells. But further study of radiological environmental impacts from the use of brine for dust suppression and road stabilization should be conducted.
To read the entire report and a complete list of its observations and recommendations, visit www.dep.state.pa.us. Search for the keyword: TENORM.