Fracking's New Side Effect: Radioactive Wastewater

Study finds high levels near a discharge site
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2013 11:21 AM CDT
Fracking's New Side Effect: Radioactive Wastewater
A drilling rig is seen in Springville, Pa.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)

Add this to ongoing debate about the merits and potential dangers of fracking: A Duke study uncovered high levels of radioactivity in water and sediment downstream from a fracking treatment plant in Pennsylvania, reports LiveScience. The researchers discovered the unexpected levels of radium in a creek near the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility. While radium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal, levels were 200 times higher than those found upstream of the plant, reports USA Today.

"We were surprised by the magnitude of radioactivity," says a co-author of the study published in Environmental Science & Technology. He called for more such sites to be investigated. Wastewater treatment plants can remove most of the radioactivity but not all, say the researchers, who traced the water in their study back to the state's large Marcellus Shale Formation. (Click to read about a Department of Energy study from earlier this year that found no dangers to drinking water near fracking sites. The fracking boom, meanwhile, is helping the US overtake Russia as the world's largest energy producer.)

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