CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new agreement between the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Highways dated Dec. 12, 20ll, states that "gas well brine" -- but not hydraulic fracturing fluids (frack brine) -- will be used to de-ice West Virginia roads.
However, repeated requests to the DEP to determine if any efforts will be made to verify the sources of the brine have not been satisfactory. DEP said suppliers provide the initial analysis of what is in the brine. DEP said the Division of Highways will periodically check the contents of the brine, and that Highways regularly inspects brine tanks and secondary containers. It still doesn't say whether anyone is checking for radioactive material.
The main characteristic of frack brine is high radioactivity (up to 3,000 times the safe drinking level). Yet radioactivity is not on the test list. Other toxins, nevertheless, such as benzene and toluene, found especially in frack brine, and which if too high, could be a problem for de-icing, are on the list. Why is there a test for common frack brine chemicals, problematic for de-icing, if it is not to be used?
Moreover, why is there suddenly plentiful "gas well brine" just when the gas industry (which, incidentally, brings most of its employees from out of state) is at a loss for a place to dispose of hundreds of millions of gallons of this waste?
According to filmed Senate testimony, 596 different chemicals are added to the water pumped underground. Twenty-eight of these are potent carcinogens or cause brain damage. Half of this poisoned water, millions of gallons per frack, returns to the surface, bringing up with it radioactive material from the shale.
Deep-well injection of frack waste is known to cause earthquakes and is also suspected of producing fissures into aquifers -- while wastewater treatment plants are refusing it.
If radioactive waste in the form of frack brine is spread on our streets, some of it, the small but heavy particles, can accumulate in crevices and soil instead of washing off. Soluble forms, like radium chloride, could be carried into water supplies. This radioactive matter, being so close, would then likely spread into homes.
At close range, even small amounts of long-term radiation are deadly. Greatly increased rates of cancer, birth defects, organ failure, IQ loss and early aging are shown by studies done after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
This could be a true emergency. Though legislators and media are apparently tied to gas companies, public awareness has usually triumphed in similar instances. But time is short. Winter is coming. If you are concerned, please contact officials and media. Pass out flyers, post signs, host meetings. De-icing with radioactive fracking waste will impact all of us.
And, if you have a radiation detector, please consider testing a site on the soil edge of a street, and another one well off road, before, and long after, de-icing starts. Record time, date, location and readings, and the make and model of the detector. Write down everything you have done and observed and sign it all in front of a notary (free at most libraries).
At the same time, notify pertinent authorities that you are doing this, and why, by return receipt or e-mail, and keep copies of everything. Your efforts may be crucial!
Daniels lives in Richwood.