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Duke Study Finds Contamination At PA Fracking Site

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
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Groundwater and sediment from a natural gas fracking treatment site in Pennsylvania is contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity.

That's the finding of a new study at Duke University. Researchers examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the stream water above and below a disposal site about an hour east of Pittsburgh.

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke, says the level of radioactivity creates potential environmental risks.

"Given the long-term disposal at this site, radioactivity has been accumulated to levels that would define the site as a radioactive waste site," Vengosh says.

"The source of the radioactivity is naturally occurring. It comes from formation water that is entrapped within the shale formation and when fracking extracts the gas, it also extracts the water, which becomes wastewater and this water contains high levels of radioactivity."

Vengosh says there are also high levels of bromide and chloride in the water samples. He says more research is needed in North Carolina to determine what regulations will be needed to protect drinking water before fracking gets underway here.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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