By Andy Sheehan, KDKA Investigator

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Department of Environmental Protection said the rivers were clear of radioactivity from drilling on Monday.

Now they’re concerned about bromides which can form cancer-causing compounds and they want to find out where they’re coming from.

A few months back, chemists at the Pittsburgh water treatment plant made a startling discovery — high levels of bromides in their intake water. It was startling because when combined with chlorine in the treatment plant, bromides become a dangerous compound called trihalomethane.

“They’re carcinogenic compounds,” Mark Stoner with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority said.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan: “Cancer-causing.”

Stoner: “Correct, over an extended period of time.”

“We had seen this two years ago in the Mon, and we never saw any indication in the Allegheny. We thought, ‘Well, lucky us,’ but then this fall that changed,” Stanley Streets of the PWSA said.

Bromides, which had been found in high levels in the Mon two years ago, are now rapidly increasing in the Allegheny. While Pittsburgh’s drinking water is still safe, Brackenridge’s water recently violated federal safe water standards for trihalomethane.

Why the sudden increase?

Fingers have been quick to point to natural gas drilling and the treatment of so-called flow back water from drilling sites.

But on Wednesday, the industry said they account for a very small percentage of bromides in the water, citing coal-fired power plants, acid mine runoff and road salt.

“During the winter months you see an increase in chloride and bromide concentrations based on runoff from road salt use,” said Stephen Hughes of Tetra Tech.

Councilman Doug Shields, who sponsored a moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling within the city limits, scoffed at that suggestion.

“It’s not coming from road salt – we’ve been putting salt on the road for decades here,” he said. “We haven’t had this problem until the Marcellus Shale drilling operation showed up.”

The water authority is testing all along the Allegheny to find out.

“Up stream and downstream of potential discharge, I think we can get a pretty good idea of where this may be coming from,” said Streets.

The state said it is ordering more than a dozen oil and gas facilities, coal-fire power plants and waste water treatment plants along the Allegheny to sample and test water from their discharges and submit them back to the state.

Bromides Found In Allegheny River
DEP: Rivers, Streams Not Radioactive
NYT Article Prompts Calls To Test Water

Pennsylvania DEP
Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority