Is Marcellus Shale radioactive? Studies are pointing in the direction that it is. The radioactivity in the Marcellus Shale results from the high content of naturally occurring uranium and thorium. While uranium is not present in the Marcellus Shale formation, a radium-226 (a form of uranium) is dissolvable in water and can become mobilized when formation water is brought to the surface during the drilling process.
A study completed in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois measured the amount of uranium inside of the well cores. Although the results varied by state, uranium was measured in each core and high uranium content is consistent.
Radium-226 has a half life of 1,600 years and, when deposited in a landfill, will remain there essentially forever. If the landfill is ever used in the future for crops, they will contain radium and the radium will be ingested. When ingested, it can concentrate in your bones and cause leukemia. The biggest concerns remain for those who purchase the land 1,000 years in the future – as they will be consuming more than the regulatory limit of radium-226.
Several problems exist concerning the contaminated liquid in the landfill. One being municipal waste fills are lined with a layer of clay and plastic and are not designed to contain low level radioactive wastes. There are two different methods of drilling that separate liquid and solid at the drilling sites. Both methods involve separation pits – where liquid and solids are separated and disposed of, and shale shakers – which also separate solid drill cuttings from liquid waste. These methods are highly recommended for the overall safety of the landowner.
There are also ways that the radioactivity can be detected. Dump trucks transporting Marcellus Shale cuttings can be monitored for radioactivity by a radiation detector manufactured by Ludium Measurements Incorporated. The detectors will sound an alarm when it measures a higher than normal radioactivity level.
There are many ways to treat and manage the radioactivity if done correctly. The radioactivity raises many serious concerns and will continue to be a topic of conversation until there is an attempt made to have it controlled.