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Health Phys. 2015 Feb;108(2):178. doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000251.

Pennsylvania's technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material experiences and studies of the oil and gas industry.

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*Director, Bureau of Radiation Protection, Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection, P.O. Box 8469, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8469.


This presentation provides an overview of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's experiences and ongoing studies related to technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) in the oil and gas industry. It has been known for many years that Pennsylvania's geology is unique, with several areas having relatively high levels of natural uranium and thorium. In the 1950s, a few areas of the state were evaluated for commercial uranium production. In the late 1970s, scoping studies of radon in homes prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP) to begin planning for a larger state-wide radon study. The BRP and Oil and Gas Bureau also performed a TENORM study of produced water in the early 1990s for a number of conventional oil and gas wells. More recently, BRP and the Bureau of Solid Waste developed radiation monitoring regulations for all Pennsylvania solid waste disposal facilities. These were implemented in 2001, prompting another evaluation of oil and gas operations and sludge generated from the treatment of conventionally produced water and brine but mainly focused on the disposal of TENORM solid waste in the state's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subtitle D landfills. However, since 2008, the increase in volumes of gas well wastewater and levels of Ra observed in the unconventional shale gas well flow-back fracking water has compelled DEP to fully re-examine these oil and gas operations. Specifically, with BRP in the lead, a new TENORM study of oil and gas operations and related wastewater treatment operations has been initiated (), supported by an American National Standards Institute standard on TENORM () and a U.S. Government Accountability Office report on shale resource development and risks (). This study began in early 2013 and will examine the potential public and worker radiation exposure and environmental impact as well as re-evaluate TENORM waste disposal. This presentation summarizes conventional and unconventional oil and gas well operations, geology and respective uranium/thorium content, radium content in oil and gas wastewater, treatment solids, radon in natural gas, the scope of other TENORM issues in the state, regulatory framework, national regulations and guidance. It also provides an overview of past and the status of ongoing TENORM studies in the Commonwealth (; Rowan and Kraemer 2012; ).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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