Sources of Radium Accumulation in Stream Sediments near Disposal Sites in Pennsylvania: Implications for Disposal of Conventional Oil and Gas Wastewater

Nancy E. Lauer, Nathaniel Richard Warner, Avner Vengosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In Pennsylvania, Appalachian oil and gas wastewaters (OGW) are permitted for release to surface waters after some treatment by centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities. While this practice was largely discontinued in 2011 for unconventional Marcellus OGW at facilities permitted to release high salinity effluents, it continues for conventional OGW. This study aimed to evaluate the environmental implications of the policy allowing the disposal of conventional OGW. We collected stream sediments from three disposal sites receiving treated OGW between 2014 and 2017 and measured 228Ra, 226Ra, and their decay products, 228Th and 210Pb, respectively. We consistently found elevated activities of 228Ra and 226Ra in stream sediments in the vicinity of the outfall (total Ra = 90-25,000 Bq/kg) compared to upstream sediments (20-80 Bq/kg). In 2015 and 2017, 228Th/228Ra activity ratios in sediments from two disposal sites were relatively low (0.2-0.7), indicating that a portion of the Ra has accumulated in the sediments in recent (<3) years, when no unconventional Marcellus OGW was reportedly discharged. 228Ra/226Ra activity ratios were also higher than what would be expected solely from disposal of low 228Ra/226Ra Marcellus OGW. Based on these variations, we concluded that recent disposal of treated conventional OGW is the source of high Ra in stream sediments at CWT facility disposal sites. Consequently, policies pertaining to the disposal of only unconventional fluids are not adequate in preventing radioactive contamination in sediments at disposal sites, and the permission to release treated Ra-rich conventional OGW through CWT facilities should be reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-962
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume52
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 6 2018

Fingerprint

Radium
radium
Waste disposal
fluvial deposit
Sediments
Oils
Wastewater
Gases
wastewater
oil
gas
Waste treatment
waste treatment
sediment
Outfalls
Surface waters
Effluents
Contamination
effluent
surface water

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

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title = "Sources of Radium Accumulation in Stream Sediments near Disposal Sites in Pennsylvania: Implications for Disposal of Conventional Oil and Gas Wastewater",
abstract = "In Pennsylvania, Appalachian oil and gas wastewaters (OGW) are permitted for release to surface waters after some treatment by centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities. While this practice was largely discontinued in 2011 for unconventional Marcellus OGW at facilities permitted to release high salinity effluents, it continues for conventional OGW. This study aimed to evaluate the environmental implications of the policy allowing the disposal of conventional OGW. We collected stream sediments from three disposal sites receiving treated OGW between 2014 and 2017 and measured 228Ra, 226Ra, and their decay products, 228Th and 210Pb, respectively. We consistently found elevated activities of 228Ra and 226Ra in stream sediments in the vicinity of the outfall (total Ra = 90-25,000 Bq/kg) compared to upstream sediments (20-80 Bq/kg). In 2015 and 2017, 228Th/228Ra activity ratios in sediments from two disposal sites were relatively low (0.2-0.7), indicating that a portion of the Ra has accumulated in the sediments in recent (<3) years, when no unconventional Marcellus OGW was reportedly discharged. 228Ra/226Ra activity ratios were also higher than what would be expected solely from disposal of low 228Ra/226Ra Marcellus OGW. Based on these variations, we concluded that recent disposal of treated conventional OGW is the source of high Ra in stream sediments at CWT facility disposal sites. Consequently, policies pertaining to the disposal of only unconventional fluids are not adequate in preventing radioactive contamination in sediments at disposal sites, and the permission to release treated Ra-rich conventional OGW through CWT facilities should be reconsidered.",
author = "Lauer, {Nancy E.} and Warner, {Nathaniel Richard} and Avner Vengosh",
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T1 - Sources of Radium Accumulation in Stream Sediments near Disposal Sites in Pennsylvania

T2 - Implications for Disposal of Conventional Oil and Gas Wastewater

AU - Lauer, Nancy E.

AU - Warner, Nathaniel Richard

AU - Vengosh, Avner

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N2 - In Pennsylvania, Appalachian oil and gas wastewaters (OGW) are permitted for release to surface waters after some treatment by centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities. While this practice was largely discontinued in 2011 for unconventional Marcellus OGW at facilities permitted to release high salinity effluents, it continues for conventional OGW. This study aimed to evaluate the environmental implications of the policy allowing the disposal of conventional OGW. We collected stream sediments from three disposal sites receiving treated OGW between 2014 and 2017 and measured 228Ra, 226Ra, and their decay products, 228Th and 210Pb, respectively. We consistently found elevated activities of 228Ra and 226Ra in stream sediments in the vicinity of the outfall (total Ra = 90-25,000 Bq/kg) compared to upstream sediments (20-80 Bq/kg). In 2015 and 2017, 228Th/228Ra activity ratios in sediments from two disposal sites were relatively low (0.2-0.7), indicating that a portion of the Ra has accumulated in the sediments in recent (<3) years, when no unconventional Marcellus OGW was reportedly discharged. 228Ra/226Ra activity ratios were also higher than what would be expected solely from disposal of low 228Ra/226Ra Marcellus OGW. Based on these variations, we concluded that recent disposal of treated conventional OGW is the source of high Ra in stream sediments at CWT facility disposal sites. Consequently, policies pertaining to the disposal of only unconventional fluids are not adequate in preventing radioactive contamination in sediments at disposal sites, and the permission to release treated Ra-rich conventional OGW through CWT facilities should be reconsidered.

AB - In Pennsylvania, Appalachian oil and gas wastewaters (OGW) are permitted for release to surface waters after some treatment by centralized waste treatment (CWT) facilities. While this practice was largely discontinued in 2011 for unconventional Marcellus OGW at facilities permitted to release high salinity effluents, it continues for conventional OGW. This study aimed to evaluate the environmental implications of the policy allowing the disposal of conventional OGW. We collected stream sediments from three disposal sites receiving treated OGW between 2014 and 2017 and measured 228Ra, 226Ra, and their decay products, 228Th and 210Pb, respectively. We consistently found elevated activities of 228Ra and 226Ra in stream sediments in the vicinity of the outfall (total Ra = 90-25,000 Bq/kg) compared to upstream sediments (20-80 Bq/kg). In 2015 and 2017, 228Th/228Ra activity ratios in sediments from two disposal sites were relatively low (0.2-0.7), indicating that a portion of the Ra has accumulated in the sediments in recent (<3) years, when no unconventional Marcellus OGW was reportedly discharged. 228Ra/226Ra activity ratios were also higher than what would be expected solely from disposal of low 228Ra/226Ra Marcellus OGW. Based on these variations, we concluded that recent disposal of treated conventional OGW is the source of high Ra in stream sediments at CWT facility disposal sites. Consequently, policies pertaining to the disposal of only unconventional fluids are not adequate in preventing radioactive contamination in sediments at disposal sites, and the permission to release treated Ra-rich conventional OGW through CWT facilities should be reconsidered.

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