This month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has commenced a radiation sampling program at various oil and gas industry sites as part of a comprehensive radiation study focused on the oil and gas industry. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) found at various industry-related sites.
The PADEP will sample and analyze the radioactivity levels of flowback waters, treatment solids, drill cuttings and drilling equipment. The sampling will occur not only at well pads, but also wastewater treatment plants, wastewater recycling facilities and landfills which accept oil and gas related wastes. Testing will continue for a time period of twelve to twenty-four months.
PADEP is testing for Radium-226, Radium-228, Uranium-238, Uranium-235, Uranium-234, Thorium-232, Radon-220 and Radon-222.
The PADEP has indicated that it will be documenting its sampling efforts and may film the taking of samples.
While the agency has stated in the past that it does not believe that industry workers face health risks from exposure to NORM from these materials, the agency hopes the study will confirm earlier studies and the agency's belief. The PADEP has stated that the “study is aimed at ensuring that public health and the environment continue to be protected.”