New information on the radioactive threats from natural gas waste

In our report Drilling Down, we mentioned that naturally occurring radioactive materials are among the hazardous substances released into the environment as a result of oil and gas operations. Argonne National Laboratory has a website with extensive information on the topic.

A new report in Scientific American reveals that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation analyzed 13 samples of wastewater from natural gas production between late 2008 and early 2009. The agency found levels of radium-226 as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink. Yet, according to the article, there is no clear plan for dealing with such dangerous waste in New York State, where thousands of new wells are anticipated. I wonder what else they found in the samples.

My NRDC colleague Kate Sinding has been blogging about the inadequacy of New York State's draft guidelines to govern the new natural gas drilling proposed there. Radioactive materials are just one of the many threats facing New York State.