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Environmental group questions Pennsylvania drilling study

December 22, 2015

BRISTOL, Pa. (AP) — An environmental group is questioning a Pennsylvania regulator’s finding that radiation levels in oil and gas industry wastewater and byproducts pose little threat.

The state Department of Environmental Protection began a study after questions arose about the radioactivity in the huge volumes of wastewater and solid waste coming out of the ground during the state’s natural gas drilling boom. The study looked at naturally occurring radioactive materials that are brought to the surface through shale gas drilling. It found little potential for additional radon exposure from the materials.

The shale gas drilling industry held the report as evidence that radiation in the 450-million-year-old Marcellus formation was being managed effectively.

But a review released last week by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network says the study used inaccurate radon measurements and sampling methods. It says the study also improperly tested stream water quality.

“The DEP TENORM report was not comprehensive. It was misleading,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which follows shale gas issues.

Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist, nuclear waste expert and consultant to the group, wrote in the review that contaminated substances will enter the accessible environment and be taken in by the public. He said the likelihood of cancers will increase.

“This is not alchemy, where lead is magically turned into gold, or in the case of Marcellus Shale, where radioactivity below ground, magically disappears when brought to the surface,” Resnikoff wrote.

The state said it has received the review. It declined to comment further.

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