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High Levels of Radioactivity Persist After Dumping of Wastewater

It has been over seven years since Pennsylvania officials requested that the dumping of radium-laden fracking wastewater into surface waters be restricted. However, a new study has found high levels of radioactivity persist in stream sediments at three disposal sites.

But the contamination is coming from the disposal of conventional oil and gas wastewater, and not fracking wastewater. Current state regulations allow conventional wastewater to be treated and discharged into local streams.

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality, said in a statement:

At the disposal sites, the level of radiation discovered was around 650 times higher than radiation in upstream sediments. Even more incredibly, in some cases it surpassed the radioactivity level that would require disposal only at federally designated radioactive waste disposal sites. Nancy Lauer, a Nicholas School PhD student who led the study, explained that:

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection back in 2011 requested that the discharge of fracking fluids and other unconventional oil and gas wastewater into surface waters be prohibited from central water-treatment facilities that release high salinity effluents.

This request was in response to growing public concern about the possible environmental and human health effects of fracking wastewater. However, the Department allowed the disposal of treated wastewater from conventional oil and gas operations to continue. Vengosh explained the downfall of allowing it to continue:

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  • Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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