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Can Marcellus drilling debris ever be disposed of?

February 14, 2011

1,000 tons of drill-cutting waste material per well.  75 heavy truck loads each.  These are the estimated average amounts of drilling fluids, naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) disturbed during the process, metals and salts from each and every single well drilled in the Marcellus.  Multiply this by the thousands of wells already drilled and those projected to be drilled in Pennsylvania alone.  Think about the number when you include the other States making up the Marcellus Shale; New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and Delaware.

Heavy trucks in Bradford County PA

Industry says “Cuttings are basically just rocks,” according to Louis D’Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Citizens, regulators, and environmental-advocacy groups call the buried cuttings “a little time bomb of pollution,” says Tracy Carluccio, the deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Whether stored on-site in lined pits, or trucked out and hauled to landfills (What’s going to happen to the leachate, the liquid that comes out of our landfills when it’s mixed with NORM?), closed-loop or open, can all of this waste material really be safely thrown away?

Really take a moment to consider that there is no “away”.

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