Water Treatment Raises Concerns About Radioactivity

Sun Gazette

A biproduct of the treatment process of wastewater produced by the gas industry is a chalky, cake-like sludge that must be disposed of in a landfill permitted to receive the material by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Some people are concerned the sludge, which may contain naturally occurring radioactive material, or NORM, could harm the environment by leaching into groundwater aquifers.

According to Carl Kirby, a geology professor at Bucknell University, humans are exposed to natural and human-induced radiation all the time – the levels are what is important.

During the fracking process, the water and chemicals injected into the well mix with and dissolved minerals, salts and other materials in the shale.

The flowback water, which can be as much as 10 times saltier than sea water, contains the dissolved materials, frack chemicals and radioactive material, Kirby said.

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