Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pennsylvania regulators' tests show no extra radiation in streams from fracking wastewater

Following a story by The New York Times that suggested Pennsylvania rivers and streams may be at risk from radioactive pollution from hydraulic fracturing in gas drilling, state regulators announced Monday that water sampling on seven Pennsylvania rivers found no elevated radiation levels. Still, "the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urged additional testing and said it will take a significantly more active role in reviewing permits and environmental impacts from the discharges," Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

In a letter to state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, EPA said municipal drinking water systems near facililties receiving Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater "should be required to conduct expedited and more frequent radiation testing," Hopey writes. The agency said pollution permits of all sewage treatment plants accepting fracking wastewater must be amended to include provisions for its treatment. In a written response "Krancer said the DEP is evaluating the EPA letter and twice mentioned that natural gas development will play a key role in future energy needs," Hopey writes.

"We at DEP know what our responsibilities are," Krancer said. "We will focus on protecting public safety and the environment and we will do that with facts and science. We will work with EPA to be sure that it is aware of everything we are doing in Pennsylvania in that regard." Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, one of the biggest drilling companies in the state noted "The DEP has now indicated, for the second time in three years, that radioactive material is not a constituent of concern. We still encourage regular testing. Radioactivity is a scary word, but it's important to use good science and apply proper context to the issue when discussing it." (Read more)

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