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Index > Environment > United States of America > Hydraulic Fracturing Radiological Concerns for Ohio

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Halliburton Loophole

"Father of Fracking"
George Mitchell
concerns over environmental
impacts of fracking

History of Fracking
Only a new technology

USA Fracking Stories

A Texan tragedy

Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in Texas

California Lags in Fracking Regulations

All In for California Water

Fracking in Michigan

Fracking in Michigan Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

Hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale

Methane Gas from Marcellus Shale Drilling

Marcellus Shale Gas Economics

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Pennsylvania Fracking

Fracking in Virginia

Lesson From Wyoming Fracking

Water Pollution from Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks

Methane in drinking water wells

Abandoned gas wells leak

Natural Gas Leaks Discovered in Boston

Methane Leaks Under Streets of Boston

Methane leaks make fracking dirty

Fracking effects real estate values

Fracking stimulates earthquakes

Protecting Gas Pipelines From Earthquakes

Gas Pipeline Earthquake - Simulations

America's crumbling pipelines

Averting Pipeline Failures

Dangers to Underground Pipelines

Gas Pipelines Could Serve as Wireless Links

Government Action needed on a National Energy Policy

EPA Releases Update on Ongoing Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Solar Booster Shot for Natural Gas Power Plants

Natural Gas Pricing Reform to Facilitate Carbon Tax Policy

Investing in fracking

What Oil Prices Have in Store?

Methane Out, Carbon Dioxide In

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Professor Ingraffea

Anti-Fracking Billboard

Natural Gas Drilling

Threats to Biodiversity

Pronghorn Migration
hindered by gas development

Microbes in a Fracking Site

Protozoa May Hold Key to World Water Safety

Shale Gas Production

Research into the Fracking Controversy

Convert Methane Into Useful Chemicals

Methane Natural Gas Into Diesel

'Natural Gas' at the molecular level

Arctic Methane risks

Arctic Methane Seeps

Great Gas Hydrate Escape

Undersea Methane Seep Ecosystem

Methane in the Atmosphere of Early Earth

Methane Natural Gas Linked to Climate Change

Cutting Methane Pollutants Would Slow Sea Level Rise

California | Colorado | Dakota | Marcellus | Massachusetts | Michigan | New York |
Ohio | Pennsylvania | Texas | Utah | Virginia | Wyoming

Shale Gas

Hydraulic Fracturing Radiological Concerns for Ohio
Melissa Belcher, M.S. and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D.

Fracking Waste: Production and Disposal


It is a known fact that the Marcellus and Utica shale formations are radioactive, with concentrations of radium-226 that are up to 30 times background[1].

In the process of drilling and fracturing wells (fracking) in shale formations, to produce natural gas, this underground radioactivity is brought to the surface, but where does it go?

Oil and gas companies, along with the State agencies they’ve bamboozled, would have you believe any radioactivity present in waste streams is either within regulatory limits, not within the jurisdiction of State governments to regulate, or non-existent.

Translation 1: the radium-226 in Marcellus shale inexplicably disappears when it is brought to the surface.

Translation 2: the oil and gas industry does not want to pay the true costs of transporting, managing or disposing the radioactive waste they are producing.

In this fact sheet, we want to cut through this murky haze that is settling over Ohio.

We will explore the situation at the Patriot water treatment plant in Warren, OH, solid waste disposal in landfills, the potential impact of fracking near public drinking water supplies, specifically near the Muskingum River Watershed, the safety of transporting waste liquids and solids from Pennsylvania and other states to Ohio via trucks, rail and barges and the potential costs of proper disposal.


The process of hydro-fracking, used to obtain natural gas and other related products from underground shale formations, requires a large quantity of water to complete the process- over 3 million gallons of water per treatment[2].

Drillers take water from underground aquifers, or surface water bodies, such as Seneca Lake, which is clearly convenient and also serves to disguise the effects of large water withdrawals (discussed in section: Are there additional environmental concerns?).

Drilling fluid is used to remove the rock cuttings from horizontal wells in the Marcellus shale formations and to transport the drill cuttings to the well surface[1].

The list of chemicals added to the water throughout the fracking process is extensive and concerning- including diesel, rust inhibitors, proppants and antibacterial agents.

Some of the drilling fluid returns to the surface in the form of flowback water once the well is drilled.

When the well is producing natural gas, any contained moisture, known as brine, is removed.

Brine contains high concentrations of naturally occurring radioactive materials from the shale formation.

To add even more concern to an already highly debated process, fracking operations are currently zeroing in on the stretch of Marcellus shale that lies at depths of 4000 to 8500 feet[3] below the Earth’s surface and ranges from West Virginia through eastern Ohio across Pennsylvania and into southern New York.

The concern for the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is that hydraulic pressure often forces drilling fluids through weak sections of well casing or into abandoned wells, thereby contaminating aquifers.

Reports have shown that Marcellus shale deposits, compared to other shale formations in other parts of the country, are much more radioactive. New York DEC sampled flowback water from vertical Marcellus shale wells and found that the liquid contained radioactive concentrations as high as 267 times the limit for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit for drinking water[4].

Brine from horizontal drilling, as being done throughout Pennsylvania, will be much more radioactive, quoted by New York DEC as high as 15,000 pCi/L[1].

Fracking not only brings this highly radioactive material to the Earth’s surface, but exists in the solid and liquid waste that is created as a result of the process.

Radioactivity in oil and gas wastewaters has been found to exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limits by up to 3,600 times, exceeding federal industrial discharge limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency by more than 300 times[5].

We discuss the impact on water treatment facilities, such as the Patriot plant in Warren, Ohio and the proposed GreenHunter facility located on the Ohio River in the section of this report titled: Treatment Facilities Under Fire.

While Ohio regulations (1509.22) require that releases to surface waters not exceed Safe Drinking Water standards, in our opinion, these waste streams are not being safely managed and regulated in Ohio.

Simply allowing waste materials to meet drinking water standards allows mixing at water treatment plants, that is, dilution, without adequate monitoring or measurement for radioactivity before or after discharge.

Ohio law also allows spreading of radioactive brine from wells that are “not horizontal wells” on land and highways – thereby potentially ending up in drinking water sources, or being re-suspended in the air.

There is no method to proving or certifying where the brine has actually come from, therefore making it nearly impossible to detect violations from spreading radioactive brine from horizontal wells on roadways.

A management plan to deal with waste material from fracking and natural gas production needs to be put in place immediately and action needs to happen now.

So what does this mean for Ohio?

Even though fracking in Ohio is not yet occurring at intense levels as in other states, the State has been victim to the process especially because the State is making itself available as a dumping ground for the waste from other places, such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Both liquid and solid fracking waste, of radioactive nature, is trucked across state lines to Ohio landfills and processed to take to wastewater treatment plants for disposal.

There is an estimated 2,000 wells scheduled to be permitted in the near future[58].

Many wells are already drilled, simply awaiting fracking while the infrastructure is being constructed.

If fracking is encouraged throughout Ohio, the state could see more than 4,000 fracking wells drilled over the next ten years. Consider this: it takes between 2 and up to 8 million gallons of water to fracture a single Marcellus shale well one time, and each well may be fractured multiple times.

From 5% to 35%[54] of the fluids initially stay underground in the well itself, while the remainder returns to the surface and must be either re-used or disposed of.

Immediate issues associated with this process are focused on contamination of water resources, where this radioactive waste should be disposed of and how to properly manage it as well as the irreversible damage it may be contributing to the environment and human health.

This will also place an exorbitant demand on the fresh water resource in the State of Ohio. Is it worth it?

Below are a few current examples of how waste is currently being treated in the state of Ohio and the issues associated with the process.

Fact Sheet Prepared for
FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio

PO Box 473
Grand Rapids, Ohio 43522
June 13, 2013
Melissa Belcher, M.S. and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D.
Radioactive Waste Management Associates

P.O. Box 105
Bellows Falls, VT 05101





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