PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Monongahela River is the source of drinking water for some 800,000 local people, so speculation raised by a New York Times article last week that it might be radioactively contaminated had been cause for alarm.
Monday, Katy Gresh of the state Department of Environmental Protection said testing had put those fears to rest.
“The results speak for themselves. We deal in facts and sound science here at DEP and the results show that there is no need for concern,” she said.
The state tested for radioactivity in seven rivers and creeks downstream from plants that treat drilling wastewater. In each case, the DEP found that readings for radioactive material were at or below safe water standards, something the drilling industry had maintained all along.
“I think it’s important for the public to know that the agency, DEP, is monitoring this and that the industry is highly attuned to the need to protect our drinking water and this was an example that that’s being done and it is safe,” said Katie Klaber of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
“I think it’s good news they haven’t found anything, but I don’t think that’s cause for sound an all-clear sign,” Steve Hvozdovich of Clean Water Action said.
Environmentalists still raise concern about whether the state is doing enough to protect drinking water and whether there has been adequate testing for other chemicals such as Benzene and Toluene that are produced in the gas extraction process.
“It’s not just the radiation that we need to be concerned about, it’s the toxic chemicals, it’s the salts, it’s the metals that also appear in this waste water that we need to be looking at as well,” Hvozdovich said.
But the DEP says it has caught up with the hazards of Marcellus drilling and is doing the proper testing and monitoring, including but not limited to radioactive materials.
“We believe the water is being cleared of those chemicals and we will continue to look at that,” Gresh said. “We will be diligent in monitoring this water and ensuring that it’s not putting anyone’s health and safety at risk.”