NYT Article Prompts Calls To Test Pennsylvania Water

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There are new developments concerning radioactive material in our rivers and streams and now there are calls for statewide testing.

The New York Times has now raised a special concern that radium and other radioactive materials found in the water are also finding their ways into our rivers and streams, jeopardizing our drinking water.

Most frac water is now treated and reused. Hart Resource Technologies, in Indiana County, treats the water and discharges it into nearby Black Lick Stream – part of the Allegheny River water basin. Paul Hart, president of HRT, says it’s virtually free of radioactivity.

In treating the frac water, radium and other heavy metals form solids that can be removed.

“The radiation is found in the solids and the vast majority of will come out with the solids,” Hart said.

The solids settle into a slurry tank and eventually hardened and are pressed into cake-like bricks to be taken to a landfill. Hart says the water that is then ready for discharge is virtually drinkable except for a high salt content.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan: “What about the radiation?”

Hart: “I have no problem with that.”

Sheehan: “You would drink it if it had no salt in it?”

Hart: “If you want to put pickles in it to make some brine, I would be fine with it.”

But environmentalists like Myron Arnowitt with Clean Water Action are not swayed.

“There is radioactivity coming out of the well sites, it comes from the shale, gets into the waste water and then that goes into the river,” he said.

Arnowitt says the state has not done comprehensive testing for radioactivity of water treatment discharges and drinking water and the public is largely going on the word of those treating the water.

“There’s clearly radioactivity that’s getting into the river,” says Arnowitt, “we need to have a better idea of how much.”

Hart agrees that statewide testing will settle doubts as would tours of his treatment plant.

“Come to facilities like ours,” he said. “People have found that there is a much better handle on this than what they realize.”

  • Judy Stipanovich

    Only a small portion of the frac water is actually returned to the surface to be processed. I think the question should be raised as to what percentage of the fracing water is returned to the surface to be treated. This fellow states that most frac water is now treated. Most frac water —from what I have heard at seminars — IS NEVER RE-CAPTURED. IN ADDITION TO RADIOACTIVITY THERE ARE OTHER major chemicals, like arsenic, that are being introduced into the ground water that is not being treated since THERE IS NO WAY to re-capture the majority of the water used in the fracing process. This includes large amounts of salt, I understand. Our rivers could eventually be salt water. I have also heard that sometimes drivers of tanker trucks discharge their loads into streams and rivers and there is no way to control that. I see this whole industry needing more “technology advances” before it can continue. As well as regulation.

  • anonymous

    Maybe this is why so many people in these counties have cancer.

  • Deborah Brenner

    my fiance drives a water truck for a living. i have been to hart, and pbt (Pennsylvania Brine Treatment) on many occasions. i can tell you that they are very careful with everything that they do, and they are making the water very clean. although the water may be a little salty, there is absolutely nothing else wrong with it.

  • anonymous

    why can’t we have more imagination. Deborah–sorry your sweetie is a wage slave for the evildoers. Hope he can someday find honest work. Mother Earth–go on line and learn about all the other possibilities for energy generation. Solar and wind are viable. Anonymous—yes cancer–and pointing it out can be dangerous. I understand your reticence. Judy–you are a brave citizen.

  • Furbs

    It takes about 4-5 million gallons of water to frac (fracture) a gas well. The water is mixed with acids, sufactants, fine sand (propant) and other proprietary chemicals to make a frac solution. Once the well has been frac’d under high pressure, water is produced (produced water) with the trapped natural gas. The initial produced water is called flowback water. This water has dissolved the natural salt deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation and results in a salt content of about 5-10%. To put this in perspective, ocean water has about 3% salt content and the rivers in Pittsburgh have about 0.04% salt content. Most gas producers will take the flowback water (about 1 million gallons per well) and mix with fresh water to make a new frac solution. After the well has been producing for a few months the produced water will contain about 10%-20% salt content. The produced water does contain some very trace amounts of radioactivity usually in the form of barium, cesium and strontium which are natually occuring in most waters. The PADEP has recently enacted legislation that prohibits the discharge of produced water into the local watershed. Traditional water treatment methods don’t apply to produced water as the salt content is much too high and traditional methods don’t remove salt. Evaporation is really the only feasible method to treat the produced water from the Marcellus gas production. Deep well injection is also technically feasible but very cost prohibitive due to the type of formation and the depth the wells have to be drilled (well over 1,000 feet). The Marcellus Shale gas formation is estimated to be the second largest natural gas deposit on the planet so its impact to help relieve the U.S. dependency on foreign oil cannot be ignored. However, the EPA and DEP must be diligent to monitor and ensure that illegal discharge of produced water into the local environment does not occur.

  • Furbs

    I think it is very irresponsible for KDKA to show the video of the muddy looking water in the beaker and not explain what that really is. The beaker actually has water from a special process tank at the water treatment plant. The water treatment plant mixes special chemicals such as aluminum sulfate or iron chloride to trap silt and sediment in the water so that it is heavy enought to settle in a settling tank. That is the process used to remove cloudiness in the water that comes from the rivers so people get nice clear drinking water. The clear water is disinfected for bacteria and viruses before it is sent to people’s homes.

    That muddy looking mixture is the result of the settling process. You can actually see how quickly the little muddy clouds settle in the beaker. That is exactly what should happen if the process is performing correctly.It is not the actual water from the gas well production as you may be led to think by the newcast and in no way reflects the purity of water that is sent to people’s homes.

  • decker

    What happens to the cakes of mterial that are removed to a landfill.?

    Landfills, especially those holes in the ground in Pennsylvania that have barely any regulation, are notroius for leaking. Rainfall seepage will reach those cakes and dissolve the same, That in turn wil seep into underground springs and rivers and eventually into surface streams and rivers.

    The ooal producers in Pennyslviaia long ago proved how much that they don’t care with their stripping operations, and their deep mines that are still allowing acid into rivers and streams in NW Pa.

    The operators of the fracing industry wil do and say anything , with the blessing of the United States and Pennsylvania Governments, especially those of Republican Governors like PA, to get the natural resources and money that these polluters will produce.

    More and more testing needs done, and more and more truth needs told to the people who seem to believe everything that their masters tell them.

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