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New York Times; Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

February 27, 2011

The NYT is running three articles which could dramatically change things in the fight to prevent unsafe drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale.

The New York Times is running a front page story in its Sunday February 27th edition entitled “Regulation Is Lax for Water From Gas Wells“.

This is the most important, alarming, urgent and well-researched story yet about gas drilling waste — including data about radioactive waste in streams, rivers, and drinking water from unpublished EPA studies and confidential industry studies.

Protecting Our Waters urges everyone to read, re-read, talk about, share widely, study, and use this article as a key source for their letters and calls to elected officials.

Reporter Ian Urbina researched and combed through some 30,000 pages of documents over several months to shows that “While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”

“The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.”

Much wastewater goes to treatment plants like this one at the Monongahela southeast of Pittsburgh, then into rivers. Source: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.”

Among Urbina’s findings; “More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste.” and “Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.”

“The Times reviewed data from more than 65 intake plants downstream from some of the busiest drilling regions in the state. Not one has tested for radioactivity since 2008, and most have not tested since at least 2005, before most of the drilling waste was being produced.  And in 2009 and 2010, public sewage treatment plants directly upstream from some of these drinking-water intake facilities accepted wastewater that contained radioactivity levels as high as 2,122 times the drinking-water standard.”

2 Comments
  1. Robert permalink
    February 28, 2011 11:14 pm

    If you don’t feel like reading the whole article published on Sunday February 27 2011 at least read the last paragraph.

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