Gas Drilling Yields Radioactive Wastewater

Yesterday the investigative journalism website ProPublica reported on a disturbing phenomenon about gas drilling: that the wastewater created by the process is radioactive. It also seems that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State's Department of Health have known about naturally occurring underground radiation in general since the mid-1980's and have been concerned with the specific problem of radiation in the Marcellus Shale's drilling wastewater since at least April of this year.

The article states that, "[w]hat scientists call naturally occurring radioactive materials...are common in oil and gas drilling waste, and especially in brine, the dirty water that has been soaking in the shale for centuries...[T]ests taken so far suggest the amount of radioactive material measured in New York is far higher than in many other places."

The DEC has issued draft guidelines for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the underground rock formation extending from Southern New York all the way to West Virginia, and which encompasses New York City's watershed. You can submit comments through the online submission system or via email to until December 31, 2009. And a petition to sign has been created by an alliance of New York state-based environmental, political and citizen groups to ban gas drilling in New York State.

There is a public hearing tonight, Tuesday, November 10th at 6:30PM at the Stuyvesant High School Auditorium, 345 Chambers Street, Manhattan.

For more background, see our previous posts on this topic and/or Damascus Citizens for Sustainability or the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.