WHEELING – The natural gas wastewater that GreenHunter Water plans to recycle in Warwood can contain trace amounts of radioactive radium and radon, according to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
A section of Wheeling City Code forbids radioactivity from occurring within city limits if it is going to exceed the federal standards, which were established during the Cold War in 1957. City code specifically defines radioactivity as a “nuisance element,” listing it alongside noise, vibration, glare, smoke, odor, air pollution, dust, liquid waste, solid waste or heat.
One of the issues Wheeling would have in attempting to enforce the ordinance – Article 1343.05 (a10) of city code – is that it has no means to test for radioactivity, said Tom Connelly, assistant director of city’s Economic and Community Development Department.
“We don’t have people to monitor this,” he said when asked about the radioactivity provision. “I have reached out to the agencies that would be responsible for monitoring it. I am still waiting for a clear answer.”
GreenHunter’s process removes suspended solids from the recycled frack water. John Jack, the company’s vice president of business development, admits trace amounts of chemicals and salts will remain in the water including radium, uranium and radon.
Jack said while the elements are radioactive, they are minuscule in volume.
Those minuscule levels of radioactivity have not stopped drilling waste from setting off radiation alarms at Pennsylvania landfills, which happened more than 1,000 times in 2012, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The Pennsylvania DEP stressed the data to date indicates there is no public health risk.
Jack said all GreenHunter employees will wear radiation monitors while working at the Wheeling site.