Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018

Radioactivity in sediments at three disposal sites measured 650 times higher than normal.

More than seven years after Pennsylvania officials requested that the disposal of radium-laden fracking wastewater into surface waters be restricted, a new Duke University study finds that high levels of radioactivity persist in stream sediments at three disposal sites.


Treated oil and gas wastewater flows into a stream in western Pennsylvania. A new Duke study finds stream sediments at disposal sites such as this one have levels of radioactivity that are 650 times higher than at unaffected upstream sites.

Credit: Avner Vengosh, Duke University

The contamination is coming from the disposal of conventional, or non-fracked, oil and gas wastewater, which, under current state regulations, can still be treated and discharged to local streams.

"It's not only fracking fluids that pose a risk; produced water from conventional, or non-fracked, oil and gas wells also contains high levels of radium, which is a radioactive element. Disposal of this wastewater causes an accumulation of radium on the stream sediments that decays over time and converts into other radioactive elements," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The level of radiation found in stream sediments at the disposal sites was about 650 times higher than radiation in upstream sediments. In some cases, it even exceeded the radioactivity level that requires disposal only at federally designated radioactive waste disposal sites.

"Our analysis confirms that this accumulation of radioactivity is derived from the disposal of conventional oil and gas wastewater after 2011, when authorities limited the disposal of unconventional oil and gas wastewater," said Nancy Lauer, a Nicholas School PhD student who led the study.

"The radionuclide ratios we measured in the sediments and the rates of decay and growth of radioactive elements in the impacted sediments allowed us to essentially age-date the contamination to after 2011," she explained.

The researchers published their findings in a peer-reviewed policy paper Jan. 4 in Environmental Science and Technology.

To conduct the study, they collected stream sediments from three wastewater disposal sites in western Pennsylvania, as well as three upstream sites, and analyzed the radioactive elements in the sediments. Samples were collected annually from 2014 to 2017 at disposal sites on Blacklick Creek in Josephine, on the Allegheny River in Franklin, and on McKee Run in Creekside.

In 2011, in response to growing public concern about the possible environmental and human health effects of fracking wastewater, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection 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. However, the disposal of treated wastewater from conventional oil and gas operations was allowed to continue.

"Despite the fact that conventional oil and gas wastewater is treated to reduce its radium content, we still found high levels of radioactive build-up in the stream sediments we sampled," Vengosh said. "Radium is attached to these sediments, and over time even a small amount of radium being discharged into a stream accumulates to generate high radioactivity in the stream sediments."

"While restricting the disposal of fracking fluids to the environment was important, it's not enough," he said. "Conventional oil and gas wastewaters also contain radioactivity, and their disposal to the environment must be stopped, too."

###

Nathaniel Warner, a former PhD student in Vengosh's lab at Duke who is now an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Penn State University, coauthored the new study.

Funding came from the National Science Foundation (#EAR-1441497) and the Park Foundation.

CITATION: "Sources of Radium Accumulation in Stream Sediments Near Disposal Sites in Pennsylvania: Implications for Disposal of Conventional Oil and Gas Wastewater," Nancy Lauer, Nathaniel Warner, Avner Vengosh, Environmental Science and Technology, DATE Jan, 4, 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04952

Media Contact

Tim Lucas
tdlucas@duke.edu
919-613-8084

 @DukeU

http://www.duke.edu

Tim Lucas | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington

nachricht Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>