PA-DEP Finds Little Potential Health Exposure Risks with Marcellus Natural Gas TENORM

Posted by Tanner Sattler on Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) recently published study findings related to radiation exposure health risks to the public and workers from the Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) produced during Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration and production. This is more good news for the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.

TENORM are produced when Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) are unearthed during the well drilling process. TENORM can be found in drill cuttings, flowback water, brine and gas.

The report findings state:

  1. There is little potential for additional radon exposure to the public due to the use of natural gas extracted from geologic formations located in Pennsylvania.
  2. There is little or limited potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public from the development, completion, production, transmission, processing, storage, and end use of natural gas. There are, however, potential radiological environmental impacts from O&G fluids if spilled. Radium should be added to the Pennsylvania spill protocol to ensure cleanups are adequately characterized. There are also site-specific circumstances and situations where the use of personal protective equipment by workers or other controls should be evaluated.
  3. There is little potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public at facilities that treat O&G wastes. However, there are potential radiological environmental impacts that should be studied at all facilities in Pennsylvania that treat O&G wastes to determine if any areas require remediation. If elevated radiological impacts are found, the development of radiological discharge limitations and spill policies should be considered.
  4. There is little potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public from landfills receiving waste from the O&G industry. However, filter cake from facilities treating O&G wastes are a potential radiological environmental impact if spilled, and there is also a potential long-term disposal issue. TENORM disposal protocols should be reviewed to ensure the safety of long-term disposal of waste containing TENORM.
  5. While limited potential was found for radiation exposure to recreationists using roads treated with brine from conventional natural gas wells, further study of radiological environmental impacts from the use of brine from the O&G industry for dust suppression and road stabilization should be conducted.

The full report can be accessed via the PA-DEP’s website here.

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Tanner Sattler, PG


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Categories: Oil & Gas Infrastructure

Tagged: Environmental  |  Natural Gas

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