PA DEP says radioactivity in Marcellus streams is below normal

In-stream water quality tests conducted on seven Pennsylvania rivers and designed to detect potential impacts of natural gas drilling show that levels of radioactivity are at or below normal levels, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP conducted the testing last November and December. It announced the results this morning, although it has not yet released the actual data.

Officials said the monitors were placed downstream of wastewater treatment plants that accept flowback and production water from drilling sites in the productive Marcellus shale formation that underlies much of the state.

The seven rivers monitored are in western and north-central Pennsylvania, where drilling activity has been heavy.

DEP Acting Secretary Michael Krancer said, “We deal in facts based on sound science. Here are the facts: All samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity.” All were below federal drinking water standards, he said.

The announcement came after a New York Times story on Feb. 27 reported that some radioactive water is sent to wastewater plants that can’t remove it, and then is discharged into waterways. Downstream, the water is withdrawn for drinking water by facilities that don’t test for radioactivity, the Times reported.

The western rivers with testing stations were: the Monongahela at Charleroi in Allegheny County; South Fork Ten Mile Creek in Greene County; Conemaugh in Indiana County; Allegheny at Kennerdell in Venango County; Beaver in Beaver County.

The north central rivers were Tioga in Tioga County and the West Branch of the Susquehanna in Lycoming County.

The Inquirer is following this story and will have a more complete report in tomorrow's newspaper and online.