The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded a six-month long investigation finding no indication of elevated radioactivity contaminating the Tenmile Creek, a primary source of drinking water tangled within the heart of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas fields.
The study was conducted after questions arose following the DEP’s collection of surface water samples taken in the spring of 2014 when the samples yielded levels of organically occurring radioactivity above normal levels. The DEP’s Bureaus of Radiation Protection and District Mining Operations took samples from the same three locations where the previous samples were taken at the Clyde Mine Treatment Facility (CTMF) in Greene County in addition to 9 other locations both up and downstream.
According to John Stefanko, DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs, the samples were tested with better technology than the original 2014 samples:
“Our goal was to get a complete picture of any possible radiological contamination. The original 2014 samples used a basic methodology that provides a limited sensitivity for naturally occurring radioactive materials. The 2015 samples were analyzed using U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved methodologies for determining radium-226 and radium-228 in water, plants, soil, or fish. The 2015 water samples were taken when the average daily stream flows within the watershed were at near normal flow conditions.”
Only one discrepancy was found in a treatment sludge sample with a radioactivity level for radium-228 at 19.539 pCi/L, which was high enough to be a point of interest, however not high enough to cause concern for the DEP.
A set of non-radiological samples were taken at the same time as the radiological samples to get a more comprehensive look at the water flowing through the creek. These, too, were considered to be within normal levels.
Stefanko said his staff expected these results, but as a matter of public interest the staff will periodically resample and analyze the CMTF sludge in 2016.
“Ultimately, there were no surprises in the environmental samples we took. The radiological results were in line with expected background radiation readings. The non-radiological samples were consistent with what we regularly see in flooded underground mines in this region.”
For a complete copy of the sample results, click here.