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Study suggests natural gas drilling releases traces of uranium

Thursday, October 28th, 2010



A new study shows how drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania could release low levels of radioactive uranium. The naturally occurring metal gets dislodged by the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shoots high-pressure water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to dislodge natural gas from the Marcellus Shale rock formation.

Some of that fluid returns to the surface through the well. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Buffalo wanted to find out what the impact of fracking would be on the uranium that also exists within the shale.

Geo-chemist Tracy Bank says her study found the resulting waste water does contain uranium.

“They need to be treated as if they contain small levels of toxic metals because they are. And if there’s any issue related to public health its proper disposal and proper treatment of these flowback fluids.”

Bank says the uranium will not end up in resident’s drinking water. But she says more data need to be gathered to determine the environmental and public health impacts of fracking.


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