Dirty Energy & Fuel Image: Shutterstock

Published on April 30th, 2013 | by Don Lieber


Fracking Waste: Too Toxic, Even For A Hazardous Waste Site

On April 19, a truck delivering waste from a fracking operation in Greene County, Pennsylvania, was quarantined after being rejected by a hazardous waste landfill as too dangerous.

Image Credit: Radioactive waste via Shutterstock

Image Credit: Radioactive waste via Shutterstock

The truck was carrying highly radioactive radium-226 in concentrations 86 times higher than allowed per EPA limits.

After being quarantined at a the landfill, the truck was sent back to the fracking site, which is operated by Rice Energy.

Radium, it should be noted, is a routine by-product of fracking — the fossil fuel extraction method behind the ongoing “natural gas boom.”

“Radium is a well known contaminant in fracking operations,” writes Jeff McMahon at Forbes. John Poister, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said “the material in question is radium 226, which is what we expect from shale drill cuttings.”

Radium-226 is linked to various forms of cancer and other diseases. “Radium-226 causes bone sarcomas and carcinomas of the paranasal sinuses and mastoid process,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s Toxicology Data Network.

“External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs,” according to the EPA. In addition to radium, fracking involves the use of hundreds of other toxic chemicalsAs reported on Planetsave previously, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, such as benzene and formaldehyde, which are subsequently found in local air and water supplies.

One 2011 study linked 25% of the known chemicals used in fracking with cancers and mutations; another 2012 study by the US Geological Survey identified toxic chemicals found in local water supplies in Wyoming linked to nearby fracking operations.

This year, further reports have detailed the risks of silicosis (a fatal lung disease) faced by well operators due to high levels of silica dust in fracking operations.    

There remains, however, scant legal requirements for the industry to disclose which chemicals are used, or how much they are used. There currently exist no federally mandated reporting requirements for disclosing the chemicals used in fracking, due largely to the infamous “Halliburton Loophole” — a law enacted in 2005 (at the behest of Vice President Cheney) that remains unchanged under President Obama. The law exempts the natural gas industry from regulatory and reporting requirements otherwise mandated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The natural gas industry has also played an active role in suppressing public knowledge about the health risks of the chemicals they routinely use — including lobbying successfully to ban doctors from freely discussing with their patients the links between symptoms and the chemicals used in nearby fracking operations.

The New England Journal of Medicine last year accused the natural gas industry of  ”infringing on the doctor-patient relationship.”

Rice Energy, the operator of the fracking site in Greene County, operates 59 fracking wells throughout Pennsylvania.

Not to be deterred by the rejection of its highly radioactive, carcinogenic waste by-product, however, the company is applying for a new permit to allow the disposal of more radioactive materials in Pennsylvania, according to Forbes.

The “natural gas boom” proceeds.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Don Lieber has written extensively on international human rights, war and disarmament, and climate justice. His writings have have been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, DeSmog Blog, E-The Environmental Magazine, and others. He is a frequent contributor to PlanetSave. When not writing about climate change, he plays bass for the NYC-based band "Wifey".

  • dratman

    They will go on doing this. No one can stop them, because the food supply of our technological civilization is fossil energy. We recently read that settlers in the Jamestown colony resorted to cannibalism during one particularly hard winter. When food runs out, it seems that humans will do ANYTHING in order to eat.

    Our civilization works exactly the same way with oil and gas: even though extraction techniques such as fracking amount to cannibalization of our planet, they will continue.

    Humankind is in a horrible quandary. We cannot afford to continue going forward as we have been, nor can we imagine any way to turn back.

  • Sherrie

    Although ‘watchdog agencies’ of the independent variety would be the way to go, just for fun here’s the info for the good ol’ folks at Rice, if you’re so inclined…

    Rice Energy
    171 Hillpointe Drive, Suite 301
    Canonsburg, PA 15317

    p: 724-746-6720
    f: 724-746-6725
    –and there’s the eternal “feedback form” at the site:
    http://riceenergy.com/who_we_are/ (directly from this article’s link”

Back to Top ↑