FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fracking Radiation

by

Radioactive waste produced by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is making headlines all over gas land, particularly in North Dakota’s booming Bakken gas and oil field.

National news coverage of the scandalous illegal dumping of radioactive filter “socks” there  — on Indian Reservations no less — has led North Dakota’s legislature to consider changes to its radioactive waste laws so that fracking’s contaminated wastes can be dumped in ordinary landfills.

One current bill would permit fracking’s radioactive waste in state landfills to be contaminated with 10 times the radioactivity that state law now allows — as long as it’s covered with 10 feet of dirt. Radioactive fracking waste that’s not being illegally discarded — no Victoria, mobster dumping probably hasn’t ended — is supposed to be being trucked out of state.

ND House Bills 1113 and 1114 — reportedly requested by the State Health Department — are being contested by some law makers and journalists who question the right of the department to set its own rules.

The ND Newspaper Association and the ND Broadcasters Association complained that one bill eliminates mandatory public hearings about landfill rule changes and instead permits them “when appropriate.” The bill also cancels public notification of the permitting process for disposition of radioactive materials.

Dave Glatt of the State Health Department told the Bismarck Tribune that his agency commissioned Argon National Laboratory in Chicago to study the issue and make recommendations. The department wanted to know “radiation limits that would be safe for workers and the public.” Glatt forgets that there are no safe radiation doses, only legally permitted ones.

Locals are Worried

“We don’t want to have, when this oil and coal is gone, nothing left here, a wasteland, and I’m afraid that’s what might happen,” said Underwood farmer Gene Wirtz to KXNET news reporter Ben Smith in January. Wirtz is worried about the increased radioactivity in local landfills. “Any amount of radiation beyond what you’re already getting is not a good thing,” he said.

Radioactive isotopes that contaminate fracking industry waste and its machinery include radon, radium-226, uranium-238, and thorium-232. According to the Health Department’s website, these long-lived radioactive pollutants come in six forms:

* “Produced water” which is injected underground but later brought to the surface as waste;

* “Sulfate scales,” which are hard, insoluble deposits that accumulate on frack sand and inside drilling and processing equipment;

* Contaminated soil and machinery;

* Filter socks, contaminated by  filtering “produced water”;

* Synthetic “proppants” or sand; and

* Sludge and “filter cake” solids of mud, sand, scale and rust that  precipitate or are filtered out of contaminated “produced water. They build up in “filter socks,” and in waste water pipes and storage tanks that can leak.

A case in point came Jan.  6, 2015, when three-million gallons of waste water sprang from a North Dakota pipeline rupture, in Williams County north of Williston, the biggest ever in the current Bakken oil rush. Attempted containment of the leak was underway January 23 as berms were set up across Blacktail Creek to prevent the waste water from flowing into the Missouri River. The New York Times reported that the leaked waste water “may contain residue from hydraulic fracturing.”

Forbes-online Calls Potential for Harm “No Problem”

Writing Jan. 26 in Forbes online, James Conca turned upside-down the results of a recent Pennsylvania study of the risks of radiation exposure from gas fracking wastes. Mr. Conca’s column was headed, “Radiation from Fracking? No Problemo.”

The Penn. Department of Environmental Protection studied so-called “Technologically-Enhanced Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material” or TENORM, and analyzed the levels of radioactivity associated with oil and gas extraction in the state.

Mr. Conca wrote that the PDEP study found there is “no concern of radiation exposure from fracking wells for oil or gas.

But on the contrary, the PDEP found explicitly warns of increased radiation risk from various aspects of fracking.

In particular, the PDEP report warned of:

* Limited potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from the development, completion, production, transmission, processing, storage, and end use of natural gas;

* Potential radiological environmental impacts from fluids if spilled; and

* Little potential for radiation exposure to the public and workers from landfills receiving waste from the oil and gas industry.

* The PDEP report said there was a need for further study of the impacts of radiation from the use of “brine” or “saltwater” or so-called “produced water” from the industry since some of it is now being spread around for” dust suppression” and “road stabilization.”

Forbes trivialized and denied Pennsylvania’s formal warning, but it did say this: “With 15 million Americans living within a mile from a fracking well, this is an important result.”

John LaForge works for Nukewatch a nuclear watchdog and anti-war group in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

 

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail