New York Times Proven Wrong – Marcellus Shale Wastewater Has Not Increased Radioactivity Levels in PA Waterways

It seems that The New York Times’ contention that Pennsylvania is poisoning waterways with radioactivity from Marcellus Shale wastewater was fiction and not science, as is now proven by test results from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP conducted tests over the past four months at key locations where wastewater is treated and released into area waterways. Here’s what they found with respect to radioactivity:

The DEP’s water quality monitoring for radioactive materials, done over the past four months, found radiation levels at or below normal naturally occurring background levels for radium 226 and 228, and below the federal safe drinking water standard of 5 picocuries per liter. The sampling was done on raw water in the rivers and creeks at locations where public water suppliers have intakes.

The DEP tested water from the Monongahela River at Charleroi in Washington County; South Fork Tenmile Creek in Greene County; Conemaugh River bordering Westermoreland and Indiana counties; Allegheny River at Kennerdell in Venango County; Beaver River in Lawrence County; Tioga River in Tioga County, and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County.

According to industry documents cited by The New York Times in articles last week, radiation was found in much higher concentrations in wastewater samples at 116 of 179 deep gas wells.

John Hanger, the former DEP secretary, said he wasn’t surprised by the testing results.

“I’m pleased by it, of course, as all Pennsylvanians should be,” Mr. Hanger said. “The results demonstrate powerfully that the concerns raised by The Times articles were false and Pennsylvania runs a stringent oversight program for the gas drilling industry.”*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Mar 8, 2011) – No dangerous radiation found in Pa. water

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  • matt

    Pretty weak argument. Where are your facts? What elements were they testing for? Where are the exact test locations?? The natural gas industry is destroying the mid-atlantic environment, but hey, what do they care, they are all from out of state.

  • As an analytical chemist I have reviewed the data reported by the PA DEP, the quantity and the quality of the data s inadequate and lacks scientific credibility: Sampling of 3 times or less at a location, most locations measured only once, no baseline comparison, no flow readings… I wonder if this data was even reviewed for proper sampling protocols and procedures! The PA-DEP data is inadequate and considerably lacking!

  • ConcernedBC

    You should read this here:


    “First of all, it is important to understand that the two organizations are referencing entirely different datasets. More to the point, while the New York Times data is about the produced water itself, the DEP report tested river water. What’s more, in a follow-up article on March 7th, Mr. Urbina wrote:

    The Times found that samples taken by the state in the Monongahela River — a source of drinking water for parts of Pittsburgh — came from a point upstream from the two sewage treatment plants on that river. The state has said those plants are still accepting significant quantities of drilling waste.

    Because that sampling site is upstream, the discharges from those two plants are not captured by the state’s monitoring plans.”

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