Pennsylvania watershed contaminated with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Hydraulic fracturing has enabled a domestic oil and gas boom in the USA, but its rapid growth has raised questions about what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that result.

Researchers now report that treating the wastewater and releasing it into surface waters has led to the contamination of a Pennsylvania watershed with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

photo: Pennsylvania watershed contaminated with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals

In 2015, the unconventional oil and gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," accounted for more than one-half of oil production and two-thirds of gas production in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The method’s market share is likely to increase even further. Although the technique has resulted in a shift away from coal, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it produces large amounts of wastewater containing radioactive material, salts, metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that could pose risks to the environment and human health.

A Pennsylvania report estimates that in 2015, 10,000 unconventional oil and gas wells in the Marcellus Shale produced 1.7 billion gallons of wastewater. The facilities that collect the water provide only limited treatment before releasing it […]

More about fracking waste and water:

The Watershed Game challenges, informs decision-makers

New study examines impacts of fracking on water supplies worldwide

Oil and gas wastewater radioactivity persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

Pennsylvania watershed contaminated with radioactive material and endocrine-disrupting chemicals

5 Million Gallons of Freshwater Used to Frack Just One Well

Fracking Is Dangerous To Your Health — Here’s Why

Penn State study: Spraying brine from drilling, fracking on roadways is hazardous

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