NY Times on natural gas fracking: “The dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”

American Petroleum Institute apparently fine with dumping cancer-causing radioactive waste off Louisiana coast

The New York Times has a multi-bombshell piece on natural gas fracking, “Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers.”  CP has done a great many pieces on the potential benefits of  fracking — and the potential dangers (see “Getting to the bottom of natural gas fracking and links below).

But while unconventional natural gas might be an energy and climate game changer (over the near term) if it can be developed in an environmentally responsible fashion, the NYT piece itself may be a game changer.

Over the past nine months, The Times reviewed more than 30,000 pages of documents obtained through open records requests of state and federal agencies and by visiting various regional offices that oversee drilling in Pennsylvania. Some of the documents were leaked by state or federal officials.

You can find “the most significant documents … with annotations from The Times” by clicking here.

Here are some excerpts from the story:

But the relatively new drilling method “” known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking “” carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

And the citizens of Pennsylvania aren’t the only ones in harms way.  There are many others:

There were more than 493,000 active natural-gas wells in the United States in 2009, almost double the number in 1990. Around 90 percent have used hydrofracking to get more gas flowing, according to the drilling industry.

Gas has seeped into underground drinking-water supplies in at least five states, including Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia, and residents blamed natural-gas drilling.

Air pollution caused by natural-gas drilling is a growing threat, too. Wyoming, for example, failed in 2009 to meet federal standards for air quality for the first time in its history partly because of the fumes containing benzene and toluene from roughly 27,000 wells, the vast majority drilled in the past five years.

In a sparsely populated Sublette County in Wyoming, which has some of the highest concentrations of wells, vapors reacting to sunlight have contributed to levels of ozone higher than those recorded in Houston and Los Angeles.

Back to the Keystone State.  Here are some more of the NYT’s findings:

More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water “” enough to cover Manhattan in three inches “” was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste.¶At least 12 sewage treatment plants in three states accepted gas industry wastewater and discharged waste that was only partly treated into rivers, lakes and streams.

¶Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.

So, are these levels of radioactivity dangerous?  Here’s where the American Petroleum Institute comes in:

Industry officials say they are not concerned.

“These low levels of radioactivity pose no threat to the public or worker safety and are more a public perception issue than a real health threat,” said James E. Grey, chief operating officer of Triana Energy.

In interviews, industry trade groups like the Marcellus Shale Coalition and Energy in Depth, as well as representatives from energy companies like Shell and Chesapeake Energy, said they were producing far less wastewater because they were recycling much of it rather than disposing of it after each job.

But even with recycling, the amount of wastewater produced in Pennsylvania is expected to increase because, according to industry projections, more than 50,000 new wells are likely to be drilled over the next two decades.

The radioactivity in the wastewater is not necessarily dangerous to people who are near it. It can be blocked by thin barriers, including skin, so exposure is generally harmless.

Rather, E.P.A. and industry researchers say, the bigger danger of radioactive wastewater is its potential to contaminate drinking water or enter the food chain through fish or farming. Once radium enters a person’s body, by eating, drinking or breathing, it can cause cancer and other health problems, many federal studies show.

Little Testing for Radioactivity

Under federal law, testing for radioactivity in drinking water is required only at drinking-water plants. But federal and state regulators have given nearly all drinking-water intake facilities in Pennsylvania permission to test only once every six or nine years.

The Times reviewed data from more than 65 intake plants downstream from some of the busiest drilling regions in the state. Not one has tested for radioactivity since 2008, and most have not tested since at least 2005, before most of the drilling waste was being produced.

And in 2009 and 2010, public sewage treatment plants directly upstream from some of these drinking-water intake facilities accepted wastewater that contained radioactivity levels as high as 2,122 times the drinking-water standard. But most sewage plants are not required to monitor for radioactive elements in the water they discharge. So there is virtually no data on such contaminants as water leaves these plants. Regulators and gas producers have repeatedly said that the waste is not a threat because it is so diluted in rivers or by treatment plants. But industry and federal research cast doubt on those statements.

A confidential industry study from 1990, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute, concluded that “using conservative assumptions,” radium in drilling wastewater dumped off the Louisiana coast posed “potentially significant risks” of cancer for people who eat fish from those waters regularly.

The industry study focused on drilling industry wastewater being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be far more diluted than in rivers. It also used estimates of radium levels far below those found in Pennsylvania’s drilling waste, according to the study’s lead author, Anne F. Meinhold, an environmental risk expert now at NASA.

Other federal, state and academic studies have also found dilution problems with radioactive drilling waste.

Uh, okay, NYT, you’ve sold me on the notion that I shouldn’t trust industry statements that these levels of radioactivity are harmless.

BUT how about a little follow up on that 1990 API study.  Has the petroleum industry kept knowingly dumping wastewater with radium in it off the Louisiana coast that could be causing cancer in people?  I’m sure the beleaguered people of the Bayou state would be interested in the answer.

The bottom line this bombshell story is that the natural gas industry should no longer be given any presumption of innocence or safety in regards the health impacts of fracking.  Time for the EPA and the wastewater industry to do some testing and inform the public of the dangers.

Read also:

37 Responses to NY Times on natural gas fracking: “The dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”

  1. Lew Johns says:

    Ruh Rho. Here in Pittsburgh one of the major shale-gas drillers (Range Resources) claims 100% recycling of fracwater. Since only about 30-40% of the water comes back out of the well (the rest remaining permanently underground) it shouldn’t matter that umpteen thousand new wells will be drilled, right? That is, if all the water retrieved from well A is pumped down well B and new water must be added to make up for that which stayed underground, then the only water ever requiring treatment will be that retrieved from the very last well ever drilled in that Field, right?

    Is there anything wrong with my reasoning, (using the assumption that the drillers MUST RECYCLE 100% of their fracwater into the next well) that there is no threat from fracwater?

    This is an extremely important matter because we desperately need shale-gas as an interim fuel to lower carbon emissions until we wean ourselves from fossil carbon fuel. Remember that burning Gas reduces carbon emissions by 1/2 compared with Coal. But shale-gas only works if the [environmental] impact of it’s extraction isn’t large.


  2. Leif says:

    That might not be the way it works in reality, Lew Johns, @1

    You might try this link posted by I believe Colorado Bob earlier in the day.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The same scenario was exposed on Four Corners, an ABC current affairs program, with regard to coal seam gas extraction in Australia. The spread of hideous toxins, in many cases into prime agricultural land, allowed to proceed undisturbed and whistle-blowers derided as ‘alarmists’. All possible dangers of polluting groundwater with ferocious carcinogens like benzene, simply denied. Money makes people lie with alacrity and a straight face, when any rational person knows that this will kill people, horribly, with neoplastic disease.
    Add to this horror (that also adds to the burden of tropospheric ozone) the unfolding nightmare of glyphosphate poisoning and GE organisms running amuk through the biosphere, once again simply denied, whistle-blowers silenced, derided or ignored and politicians entirely in the pocket of the desecrators, and a score, at least, of major ecological crises, pollution disasters and resource depletions, and it will be a miracle if a single human is left by 2050. I’m afraid I’ve long since been lost for a sensible explanation as to what is going on. We are careering to destruction, yet not one politician will get up and say the truth, the whole truth. Here the Government has just proposed a moronic partial and tentative carbon tax, to be met by the Leader of the Opposition literally barking that he will lead ‘a people’s Crusade’ to oppose it, because it will increase petrol by six cents per litre. So there’s the Right’s calculation of the value of our childrens’ lives-six cents per litre. Already the deracinated rabble that is the Dullard regime gives every indication of botching the introduction, and the Rightwing MSM led by the Murdoch apparat, is, as usual, acting in a deranged and deeply vicious manner in opposing it. I’ve actually become quite convinced that, for some motivation that still remains obscure to me,(although I have awful presentiments) that the rulers of this planet are actually determined to see the greatest catastrophe in history. No other explanation, not greed, not stupidity, not ignorance can fully explain why they simply refuse to face facts and vigorously oppose any action whatsoever to avoid disaster.

  4. Ao says:

    Everyone should see Gasland which exposes the Gas drilling industry. You can watch the whole thing here:

  5. Joan Savage says:

    lew johns #1

    It’s a Bernie Madow type set-up that keeps deferring the water disposal problem into the future, while multiplying it. Imagine three successive fracks of a single well, using the Range Resources optimistic estimate for 30% recovery and reuse each time.

    The starter supply of water for a first frack is typically around 2 million gallons per well. After a few years, the well’s gas production declines and the well has to be re-fracked, usually two or more times. The successive frackings to re-open a well typically use more water per frack than the initial frack, scaling up to as much as 9 million gallons per frack.

    30% of 2 million is 600,000 gallons of contaminated production water from a first fracking.
    30% of 3 million (using the 600,000 gallons a second time) is 900,000 gallons from a second fracking.
    30% of 8 million (using the 900,000 gallons a second time) is 2. 4 million gallons contaminated production water from a third, and possibly last, fracking.

    Multiply that by hundreds to thousands of wells, ending their production life at around the same time.

    There’s a lot more to the hydrofracking process, but deferring a disposal problem with no real solution is one factor.

  6. paulm says:

    Ok what does this mean now for action on Climate Chaos?

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    paulm #6, it means that anthropogenic climate destabilisation is by far not the only disaster we are facing, and that leaving the solution to the capitalist market simply means adding some new horror to the list, because the neoplastic malignancy that is capitalism is interested only in making money, and more and more as time goes by. Like cancer it must grow, thereby killing life, or die itself. I propose that we must aid its rapid demise.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    The WORLD requires a strict mandatory ban on all fossil exploration, otherwise we will not make it.

  9. Lew Johns says:

    @Joan #5, you have it backwards. Only 30% of fracwater ever comes back out. 60-70% of fracwater stays deep underground. Because of this, all used fracwater PLUS a lot of fresh water goes down the well for each succeeding fracturing episode. As long as all recovered used [contaminated] fracwater is used in the next fracture then the only water finally requiring disposition is that 30% recovered from the last well ever drilled.

    Again, is there a flaw in my reasoning?


  10. Scott says:

    Is it even conceivable that water treatment plant employees in Pennsylvania fail to check everyday for radioactivity of water both entering and leaving their plants? The danger has been known to all for months or years by now. Whether they are told to by a corrupt EPA or not, how are those plant employees able to avoid clicking a button on a meter when their own children will be drinking the water? Not to mention the other chiemicals. Shut that fracking down now!

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Lew Johns @8 — What gives you confidence that the frakwater actually stays deep underground, given groundwater withdrawals for drinking and irrigation?

  12. K. Nockels says:

    #2 Leif, where do we find Colorade Bob’s link? not on your post here

  13. Scott says:

    I’ve written to my local paper in Houston to ask them to do some reporting for those of us who drink water.

  14. K. Nockels says:

    Really you all should watch Gas Land it will answer some of the questions and dispell some of the myths about public safety and Gas Fracting, This is what we always seem to get from the energy industry and we go along with it because we are addicted to fossil fuel energy.
    The meme about we need it NOW and we will deal the problems later usually much later has been our guiding star for over 100 yrs. Don’t do it RIGHT just get it to us fast and cheap.

  15. Jay Alt says:

    DBB – Good point. NYT said PA has too few deep wells for all waste to be injected. Frack wells aren’t necessarily deep enough to protect the water table, as owners of polluted wells already know. I’m glad someone is starting to look at this. Note the ‘new’ EPA did so in 2009, but did not to release the consultant’s report.

    Radioactivity always gets our attention, but what of benzene from shale, “natures’ own carcinogen?” Or the mystery toxin mix that drillers use? I don’t think water treatment plants remove benzene. The MDSS for benzene advises- don’t clean up a spill with water, close the intakes of all water plants downstream and divert it into storage at wastewater treatment plants. (pg 17)

  16. Leif says:

    K. Nockles @ 11: Sorry about that. Senior Moment.

    Comment #90 on the Feb. 26 “Weekend Open Thread”

    It is kind of long but informative. I got the Colorado Bob part right. :<)

  17. Leif says:

    Lew Johns: The above link is a real life case study where the fracking stuff apparently did not stay where it was intended and has ruined the the lives of innocent folks in the area.

  18. FS says:

    Another question comes to mind. What about the risk of earthquakes and landslip?

    besides, they want to start fracking in Germany, too. And we don’t even have standards for radio-activity in water. And at the moment fracking is regulated under mining law, that means, it’s not much regulated at all. Local parliaments cannot even argue, they have no legal right…

  19. Joan Savage says:

    Lew #8

    Take another look. The example uses that industry-quoted 30% rate.

    Pump 2 million gallons down a well, leave 70% in the ground (that’s assuming leaving 1,400,000 gallons in the ground), and up the well comes the other 30% and you have …600,000 gallons of production fluids at the surface at the end of the first frack.
    The second fracking of that same well typically uses more water than the first fracking, so you need more than 2 million gallons to operate, but you only have 600,000 to reuse, so industry has to come up with more water to replace the water lost in the ground.

    Don’t assume the quantity of water per drilling stays constant. It increases with refracking. It varies from well to well.

    Don’t assume that the gas industry is going to daintily finish up at its first well and transport water to a second well. They would like to drill 100s or 1000s of wells within a few years, so the water demand has a simultaneous component as well as a sequential growth in demand over re-frackings.

  20. Joan Savage says:

    This is partially OT, but gas pipelines are vulnerable to damage from a solar storm. The electromagnetic (also called geomagnetic) pulse can cause corrosion in the metal.

    Finland has taken monitoring and preventive measures to be better prepared for solar storms. The Finnish Meteorological Institute has a great educational paper.

    Now is a time of heightened solar activity. A solar flare emitted on February 24 happened to head away from earth. A solar flare or even worse, a coronal mass ejection, that comes to earth can damage GPS and telecom satellites and corrode some pipelines.

  21. mike roddy says:

    Natural gas was never an “energy and climate game changer”. It is business as usual, brought to us by the same gangsters. Either we get off fossil fuels or not.

  22. Richard L says:

    “Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded ……”

    I once worked at a utility where sensitive subjects were shielded from the public. They avoided FOIA by never making the document ‘final.’ They said ‘draft’ documents were not required by law to be disclosed. Disgusting tactics.

  23. Joy Hughes says:

    This is a case of depletion leading to diminished returns. The cost of gas, both internal and external, increases as the easy gas is gone. More energy is required to extract it, and more pollution is produced.

    In climate terms the most important thing to note is that similar lax controls apply to the leakage of methane from wells and pipelines. Lifecycle analysis shows that natural gas is even worse than coal, and falls somewhere between diesel and gasoline in terms of CO2e.

    The numbers will get worse as gas from fracking and re-fracking becomes part of the mix, with lower EROI (energy return on investment).

    Remember that methane leads to a big short term climate spike, which could then unlock more methane from the permafrost, leading to something like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 Million years ago. Crocodiles in Wyoming, whee! Things go back to normal in 150,000 years or so.

    It’s a shame to think here in Colorado we went to a big effort to switch over to natural gas from coal, and all we did was switch from one greenhouse gas to another…

  24. Richard L says:

    Lew Johns # 1

    I think the issue with ‘recycling’ this water is that there is a good chance every successive cycle will have higher contaminants. The severity of this will depend on what concentration of pollutants are in the ‘recycled’ waste water that is re-injected. Say first injection uses 100% ‘clean water,’ second injection uses 30% recycled and 70% ‘clean’ third has 30% of the second (70% + 30%) plus 70% ‘clean’, etc.. The recycled fraction of the waste will keep increasing and the introduction of contaminant will increase along with it….

    Disclaimer: I know about ‘process engineering’ but not ‘fracking’

  25. jcwinnie says:

    the world is their toxic waste dump, I shall not want for green pastures

  26. hpierce says:

    The gas drillers should contact the pollution control guys at Koch Industries, which has a variety of engineering services for designing polllution control systems and equipment. Presently, KI sells pollution control equipment and systems for gases and pariculates.

    Go check their website. They sell a lot of this stuff.

  27. Eric Normand says:

    The majority of Americans know nothing about this ever widening problem and, hopefully, this NYT article will at least be some kind of introduction for a few. As other posters mentioned, watch Gasland, it really is an eye-opener. Thanks in large part to Dick Cheney, the natural gas industry is almost entirely unregulated, a wild-west free-for-all that is systematically destroying the watersheds of the U.S. At one point of the film they show a map of the US littered with thousands of marks designating fracturing operations, then they overlaid a map showing the widespread intersections of these river systems and the gas fields. It was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen a documentary. There’s no escaping this problem, we all need water.

    I told my parents to watch this documentary and, after doing so, they were also horrified, they had no idea this was an issue at all. unfortunately, I believe that this is the case for most Americans. When they asked me what we can do about it, my reply was simply to spread the word, to tell everyone you know that this is a real problem and will impact ALL OF US. Urge your friends and family to watch Gasland! (It can be viewed here)

  28. Jeffrey Davis says:

    “paulm #6, it means that anthropogenic climate destabilisation is by far not the only disaster we are facing…”

    From AGW to Peak Oil to trade imbalance to deeper entanglements in MidEast politics, the answer is to develop local, “green” sources of energy. The only thing our politicians can agree on is to drive us further into the arms of the carbon-wights.

  29. Ed Hummel says:

    Mike Roddy #20, you are so right! The best place for fossil fuels is in the ground which is nature’s way of sequestering the excess carbon that would otherwise lead to a runaway greenhouse effect as the sun gets gradually stronger. Instead, humans have been subverting nature’s way of keeping Earth habitable over the long term. So, the main issue should be getting off ALL fossil fuels immediately! Climate change as this NYT article shows so emphatically is just one of the reasons to do so. Various pollutants, some of which we’re probably not even aware of yet, are just another major problem that lead to a myriad of others. All arguments about social and economic disruptions without a gradual (endless?) transition from fossil fuels become glaringly irrelevent when one looks at these problems rationally. The disuptions to and eventual collapse of human society and civilization will certainly come on their own if we continue down our current path. The only solution to stop this journey immediately is by a concerted effort of all societies to immediately get off ALL fossil fuels. If it means a massive reordering of society under martial law, then so be it. If we’re not smart enough to figure out how to do that without having chaos, then maybe we don’t deserve to exist as a species. I already have my doubts that we do just based on our history.

  30. dbmetzger says:

    the fracking story was also carried by RT news (Russia today) and if the documentary “Gasland” had won and Oscar there might have been a boost in publicizing the issue.
    Hydraulic Fracturing Contaminates US Water Supplies
    In rural Pennsylvania, a natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has polluted the community’s water supply. The Pennsylvanian state government is moving to penalize offending companies.

  31. Colorado Bob says:

    4.7 Earthquake In Arkansas Followed By 2 More (VIDEO)

    Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey, told the AP that geologists believe the seismic activity is either a naturally occurring swarm, or could be related to natural gas exploration in the region. According to Ausbrooks, geologists don’t believe production wells are the problem, but haven’t ruled out injection wells that dispose of “fracking” wastewater as a culprit. The earthquakes have been occurring near several injection wells.

  32. David Lewis says:

    The reason the shale gas is far more radioactive than natural gas has ever been before is that they are drilling into the biggest uranium deposits known to exist in the US, to get the gas. The drillers are being told to look for the most radioactive shales if they want to find shales with the most gas.

    See my post on this subject for more detail:

    Basically, the same geological processes that concentrated the organic material that eventually became natural gas in these US shales also concentrated uranium.

    The Atomic Energy Commission mapped out US uranium resources after WWII and declared these “marine black shale” deposits, i.e. the same ones presently being exploited for natural gas, to be the largest uranium resource that exists in the US. The reason industry is not mining them for uranium at the moment is that far richer deposits were eventually found elsewhere in the US, and in the world. But, just as the gas in the shale was not exploited until technology, price, and scarcity of better deposits created the ability and incentive to go “fracking” for this gas, the shales will be mined for uranium once the better ores are gone.

    The NYTimes story you are writing about missed this point – i.e. because they are drilling for gas in uranium ore, of course there will be problematic amounts of radiation, and because gas gets a free pass on radiation compared with nuclear facilities, everyone is caught flat-footed about what to do about it. I.e. gas has always exposed people who use it in their homes to levels of radiation an order of magnitude greater than if they used nuclear generated electricity to heat and cook with even if they lived right next door to an operating nuclear reactor, but, we are told, in reference to reactors, the slightest amount of radiation is dangerous, while no one cares about the radiation that has been associated with regular natural gas since day one. There is so much radiation in the “fracked” gas however, it will become an issue, as seen in this NYTimes article.

    PS. The EPA is revising the reference document that many, i.e. the IPCC etc., used when assessing the climate impact of using natural gas. It turns out that methane leaking into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of the oil and gas industry as they produce and transport natural gas has been far greater than they’ve admitted in the past. It really looks like the historic use of natural gas, worldwide, has had a greater climate impact than if an energy equivalent amount of coal had been used instead. The recent GAO study on gas leakage confirmed high rates of leakage in the US. NASA has also recently published a study showing that the climate impact of any methane that does leak is at minimum 30% greater than anyone thought in the past as well.


    EPA revising its reference document:

    GAO reports on methane leaks:

    NASA revises GWP data on methane:

    The Sierra Club is aware of all this, and yet they still take the position that the US needs to quickly develop shale gas. Go figure.

  33. Lew Johns says:

    Richard L #23, yes, the percentage of contaminant increases with each cycle of re-using the 30% of recalled fracfluid, but if you do the Math you will see that the rate of increase of concentration steadily declines with each cycle. That is, the rate of increase (of concentration) approaches without ever reaching….zero.

    I urge all here to realize that this exercise is non-trivial. This is actually at the very heart of the issue as to whether the exploitation of shale-gas will bring to the surface an ever increasing amount of undesirable substances, or whether as with conventional natural gas production there is NO concentration of unwanteds on the surface. My chain of reasoning informs me that as long as there is near 100% recycling of recovered (“produced” by the well) fracking fluids, there is no net production of unwanteds from the process. My essential assumptions are:

    In response to another point brought up, how can horizontal drilling/hydrofracturing be inately any more likely than conventional drilling to cause contamination of domestic water wells. The contents of the geologic formation (i.e., Marcellus Shale) as well as in situ radium does not presently find it’s way into people’s wells or to the surface because the formation itself is effectively an aquaclude, having very low porosity. After drilling, conventional or un, the only opportunity for fracfluid, in situ radium, in situ benzene compounds or anything else to get to the surface or into intermediary geologic formations is through the drill-hole. While there is a risk of this happening, I cannot see how it can be any greater than the risk faced with conventional wells in the same vicinity. These risks are met and controlled and have nothing to do with whether hydrofracturing and/or horizontal drilling was employed.

  34. Edward says:

    Benzene is THE cancer causer. Joe should concentrate on the benzene, not the radon. Benzene is a carcinogen naturally found in oil. I wonder how many cancers will be caused by benzene released from oil refineries? How much exactly is enough to cause cancer? How long will the benzene linger in the environment? Since the benzene is airborne the cancers will be spread over the entire area of the US.
    shows 1.8 MILLION pounds of benzene released from US refineries in 2008!!!!!!
    Is that enough to blame for every cancer case in the US?

    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

    Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.

    Calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states. However, data from the American Cancer Society show that age-adjusted overall cancer death in Gulf Coast states is actually 1.26 times higher than in Rocky Mountain states. The difference from proportionality is a factor of 4.0. This is a clear negative correlation of NBR with overall cancer death. It is also shown that, comparing 3 Rocky Mountain states and 3 Gulf Coast states, there is a strong negative correlation of estimated lung cancer mortality with natural radon levels (factors of 5.7 to 7.5).

  35. Edward says:

    32 David Lewis: With the same effort and using baking soda as a solvent, they could get the uranium out instead.

  36. Raindog says:

    In case you are interested in the facts and a level headed approach: here is former PA DEP head John Hangar responding to the hit piece in the times: