U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has called on state and federal environmental regulators to increase testing of public drinking water supplies for radioactive contamination connected with the burgeoning Marcellus Shale gas well drilling industry in Pennsylvania.
The senator’s request that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency step up sporadic radiation testing follows a New York Times report that hydraulic fracturing wastewater at 116 of 179 deep gas wells in the state had been found to contain high levels of radiation.
“No threat to Pennsylvania drinking water should be taken lightly, especially one involving radioactive material,” Mr. Casey, D-Pa., said Tuesday. “Alarming information has been raised that must be fully investigated.”
Mr. Casey questioned why the DEP and EPA haven’t required water treatment facilities to conduct radiation tests for six years or more despite growing public concern about the disposal of wastewater from wells tapping the Marcellus Shale formation. Studies show the shale contains elevated levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials.
The EPA released a statement Tuesday saying agency scientists are undertaking a study of the fracturing practice “to better understand any potential impacts it may have on drinking water resources.”
“While we conduct this study, we will not hesitate to take any steps under the law to protect Americans whose health may be at risk and we remain committed to working with States, who are on the front lines of permitting and regulating natural gas production activities.”
Katy Gresh, a DEP spokeswoman, said the agency hasn’t decided whether more testing is needed.
Pennsylvania American Water, which draws from the Monongahela River at three treatment facilities to provide water for about 209,000 customers in Allegheny, Washington and Fayette counties, said it will conduct radiological tests at its intakes along the Monongahela, Clarion and Allegheny rivers in the next few weeks and the results reported to the DEP and EPA for analysis.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority said it will schedule tests for radiation this year because of the concerns over Marcellus Shale wastewater.