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Truck Carrying Radioactive Fracking Waste Sent Away from Western Pa. Landfill Site

Apr 24, 2013

A truck carrying a load of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling waste — mostly Marcellus shale — was sent away from a hazardous materials dump in western Pennsylvania after it set off alarms because it was allegedly radioactive.

According to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report, the truck was about to enter the MAX Environmental Technologies hazardous materials landfill in South Huntingdon, Pa., when it set off an alarm because its contents were radioactive. Landfill officials sent the truck, also owned by MAX, back to the drilling site where it originated, in Greene County, Pa.

An official with Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection confirmed for the Tribune-Review that the truck had been at the Rice Energy Thunder II drilling site. The "drill-cutting" materials in the truck measured 96 microrem. The limit for radioactive material at the MAX landfill is 10 microrem. It has been determined that radium 226 was responsible for causing the radiation alert.

Now, Rice Energy, which owns the well where the material originated, can opt to re-test the drilling material or have it sent to another landfill that can accept the radioactive material, according to

We have been reporting for several years now on the potential dangers associated with fracking drilling, and this incident certainly underscores some of those risks. Many people living closest to fracking wells, along with environmental safety advocates, have argued that fracking drilling poses health and environmental risks.

Fracking is conducted by ushering a drill, fresh water, sand, and a mix of several hundred chemicals into an underground horizontal well until a shale bed is reached. The drilling mix blasts apart the rock, releasing natural gas or oil deposits, then rushes back to the surface where it's supposed to be collected, stored, processed, and disposed.

Radiation has been a concern of many who believe fracking is dangerous. Based on previous reports, including from the New York Times, fracking waste water contains high levels of radioactive material, which requires that it be sent to special treatment facilities before being returned to the public supply.

This incident clearly shows that the radiation risk extends to more than just waste water.

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