Pennsylvania formerly used the wastewater to suppress dust on unpaved roads
While the state of Pennsylvania ended the practice recently, a new study has unveiled some unknown of effects of spreading oil and gas wastewater on unpaved roads, a common practice utilized to suppress dust.
The state had abolished the practice following a lawsuit claiming the practice was causing unnecessary pollution, but the new study paints a more thorough picture of the detrimental effects that spreading such wastewater can have. Specifically, the study outlines the potential for harm to the environment and public health through leaching metals, salts and radioactive materials into surface or groundwater, soil, and air.
The study was conducted by researchers at Penn State University, who found that radium could potentially be present in wastewater derived from oil and gas processes. Radium is a known carcinogen and radioactive element.
“Some of the radium and some of the lead sticks to the road,” said Nathaniel Warner, scientist at Penn State University and co-author of the study. “But a lot of it just sort of leaches out with any rain event. So where that goes we don’t really know.”
The study follows an announcement made last week by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection signaling the end of the practice throughout the state’s unpaved roads. The announcement came as a result of a lawsuit made by a resident of Warren County.
Roughly a dozen counties in Pennsylvania employed the wastewater process before its banishment last week, and according to officials, this process is still utilizes in 13 further states beyond Pennsylvania.