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Sampling for PA DEP oil and gas radiation study begins in April

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Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection released detailed sampling and quality assurance plans April 3 for its ongoing radiation study of oil and gas development.

The agency will sample and analyze radioactivity levels of flowback waters, treatment solids, drill cuttings and drilling equipment, along with the transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes.

"Based on current data, regulations and industry practices, there is no indication that the public or workers in the oil and gas industry face health risks from exposure to radiation from these materials," the agency's media release read. "The study is aimed at ensuring that public health and the environment continue to be protected."

On Jan. 24, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett directed DEP to undertake a comprehensive study examining naturally occurring levels of radioactivity in byproducts associated with oil and gas development.

The sampling plan formulated by the agency outlines the types of samples DEP will collect, their locations and the methods for analyzing them. Its quality assurance plan provides specifics on how the agency will collect, transport and analyze the samples.

DEP will collect and analyze drill cuttings, flowback fluid and drilling mud for a variety of radioactive particles. Staff also will examine compressor stations, storage tanks, trucks, drill rigs and wastewater treatment facilities.

Sampling is expected to begin this month.

DEP said it routinely reviews radioactivity data in wastes that the drilling industry and other industries generate, and that the information obtained to date indicates very low levels of natural radioactivity. The agency also said it maintains a statewide monitoring network to protect the public from exposure to unsafe levels of radiation.

For more information and to view the plans, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click the "Oil and Gas Development Radiation Study" banner at the top of the homepage.