Critics cite radioactive threat from hydraulic fracturing | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo / Steven Rubin for Public Herald Susie Beiersdorfer stands next to the Duck Creek Energy well platform in Tod Homestead Cemetery in Youngstown. She is an activist with Frackfree Mahoning Valley and the Ohio Community Rights Network.

Despite efforts by environmental organizations to educate the public about the radioactive risks created by the boom in shale gas fracking, some Ohioans are still unaware of TENORM that can build up in their own backyards.

TENORM, or technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material, is created when naturally occurring radioactive material found in the earth is used commercially, processed, separated, or has their radioactivity concentrated, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. , which regulates TENORM in the state.

Sil Caggiano, retired Senior Battalion Commander of the Youngstown Fire Department, said that when it comes to TENORM, he believes first responders and civilians are not receiving the knowledge they are entitled to by the law on emergency planning and the right to community information, also known as Title III of SARA. The law requires states to “organize, analyze, and disseminate information about hazardous chemicals to local governments and the public.”

In order to navigate industry-related incidents, such as spills and explosions, first responders need to know what to test or what they are exposed to.

Caggiano attributes the lack of public awareness to state protection of the oil and gas industry.

“You are not wrong with hydraulic fracturing,” Caggiano said.

Mike Chadsey, public relations director for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said the information these first responders need is available and to suggest otherwise is “misinformation.”

“The medical community knows that state law clearly states that they and all first responders have access to all the information they need to care for their patients,” Chadsey said.

Caggiano said that when it comes to influencing public opinion, he believes the oil and gas industry is almost impossible to compete with.

“If you bring in a guy who is trying to tell you that the radium in the brine tanks is no worse than the radioactive potassium in bananas, people believe him because a guy who got paid and has a PhD.” said so, ”Caggiano said.

The ODH states in a TENORM fact sheet that exposures to TENORM are low compared to risks from other radiation sources, but will vary depending on individual activities.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency rates the risks to members of the public working within 100 meters of a TENORM contaminated waste disposal site as “very low,” but lists these risks as gamma radiation. direct, inhaling contaminated dust or radon downwind, or ingesting contaminated well water or food. The level of radiation in TENORM can also vary widely, according to the EPA.


When a radioactive element decays, it releases a small explosive piece of matter or energy – ionizing radiation. Radioactive elements, such as radium-226, emit alpha particles that can be found in the air as dust, drift in the air, and be inhaled or ingested.

Radium-226 is found in nature, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Radium is present in all uranium ores, but it is more widely distributed because it forms water soluble compounds.

Exposure to high levels of radium can make you more likely to get bone, liver or breast cancer, according to a 2017 ODH fact sheet on radionuclides in water. The fact sheet indicates that most of the radionuclides in Ohio’s drinking water come from natural sources. While the goal is to reduce radionuclides in drinking water to zero, the EPA sets maximum level limits for radium at five picocuries per liter of water.

Likewise, solid waste landfills can only accept TENORM waste at concentrations less than five picocuries per gram above natural background radiation levels, according to ODH. A curie a unit of measurement of radioactivity.


Andrew Gross, who worked as a health physicist with the US Navy and studied the effects of TENORM for years, said: “Putting this radioactive material in municipal waste sites is a huge concern. It could change the lives of a lot of people, people nearby, people down streams, all of those things. ”

Julie Weatherington-Rice, Earth Scientist and Assistant Professor at Ohio State University, Ph.D. in soil science, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s a permanent reactor near your house, and it will always be a reactor because the waste has pooled together. And it’s going to make just as much radon and radium today as it will tomorrow and the next day and the next day and in 30 years and in 100 years and in 500 years because the half-life of this stuff is like, forever … So although ‘this is a natural material, when you concentrate it, you create a reactor.

Chadsey, however, said that with more than 200,000 Ohioans proudly in the natural gas industry, he has no intention of putting the lives of these families or shared communities at risk.

“The development of natural gas can, is and will continue to be done safely under very strict rules and regulations. As it should be, ”he said.


Susie Beiersdorfer of Youngstown is an activist with Frackfree Mahoning Valley and the Ohio Community Rights Network. For years, she and her late husband, Ray Beiersdorfer, have heard complaints at regulatory body meetings and believe they have been ignored.

Beiersdorfer’s group has placed fracking ban attempts on the Youngstown poll eight times since 2013, hoping to protect the water and create a community bill of rights. All of its efforts have been unsuccessful and vigorously opposed, in part, by the industry.

“In fact, we initially had the illusion that our government was protecting us,” she said. “But we have heard that they are all captured.”

Gross said if Ohio activists are to create real change, the only way forward is monetary pressure on state and industry.

“For me, the only way to do that is to hit them financially through lawsuits, and then get the guys who have a real financial interest… to start making noise,” Gross said. It takes “pressure on the wallets of the legislature and pressure on the wallets of the guys who produce (fracking waste). ”

Chadsey said the work of activists trying to tackle the industry will not be welcomed by workers in Ohio, especially in the Mahoning Valley.

“The people who inhabit the Valley are hardworking, hard as nails and do not support this extreme activist,” he said.

Editor Allie Vugrincic contributed to this story.

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