Fracking Debris Ten Times Too Radioactive for Hazardous Waste Landfill

Abby Zimet

A truck carrying cuttings from a Pennsylvania fracking site was quarantined at a hazardous-waste landfill and sent back after its contents triggered a radiation alarm showing the load was emitting 96 microrem of radiation per hour; the landfill rejects waste with levels above 10 microrems. The radioactive material from a site in the Marcellus Shale formation was radium 226, a common contaminant from the decay of uranium-238 that tends to accumulate in bone and can get into water. Officials said “everything was by the book in this case" because the alarm went off as designed; the fracking operators can now either re-apply at that landfill or take their deadly waste to an out-of-state facility that accepts it - and yes, they exist. The scariest thing here: Pennsylvania, which is currently studying radiation contamination associated with fracking wells, claims to be the only state that even requires landfills to monitor radiation levels.

 “It’s not too frequent that this occurs, but it’s not totally infrequent either.” - DEP spokesman John Poister, trying to be reassuring.

“Long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing several diseases. Inhaled or ingested radium increases the risk of developing such diseases as lymphoma, bone cancer, and diseases that affect the formation of blood, such as leukemia and aplastic anemia. These effects usually take years to develop. External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs.”

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