Naturally-occurring radioactivity liberated by new natural gas mining technologies: A pilot study of the geochemical partitioning and potential for radionuclide migration and exposure to higher organisms and humans

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Project Period: 
Project Investigator(s): 
M. Schultz, Departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology, The University of Iowa
T. Forbes, Department of Chemistry, The University of Iowa

New drilling and hydraulic-fracturing technologies have unlocked economically-lucrative reserves of natural gas and the practice is proliferating rapidly. However, solid and liquid waste from these activities are enriched in naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORM). Further, sediments downstream from wastewater treatment facilities are enriched in NORM. Similarly, NORM levels in solid waste are too high for disposal in many municipal facilities and are often buried on homesites. This pilot study will collect and analyze surface water, sediments, and plants at a wastewater treatment site in West Virginia that accepts hydraulic-fracturing wastewater, and will also collect and determine the leachability of NORM from solid-waste.         


Nelson AW, Eitrheim ES, Knight AW, May D, Mehrhoff MA, Shannon R, Litman R, Burnett WC, Forbes TZ, Schultz MK. Understanding the radioactive ingrowth and decay of naturally occurring radioactive materials in the Environment: An analysis of produced fluids from the Marcellus Shale. Environ health Perspec. 2015 123(7):689-696.

Nelson AW, Johns AJ, Eitrheim ES, Knight AW, Basile M, Bettis EA, Schultz MK, Forbes TZ. Partitioning of naturally-occurring radionuclides (NORM) in MArcellus Shale produced fluids influenced by a chemical matrix. Environ Sci Processes Impacts 2016 18(4):456-463