The following is a summary of the steps that regulators in Pennsylvania and Ohio have taken to address the presence of radioactive materials in shale gas wastes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Bureau of Radiation Protection uses 2001 regulations requiring monitoring for and responding to radioactive material entering solid waste facilities to regulate naturally occurring radioactive materials ("NORM") in shale gas wastes. Solid waste facilities must screen loads of waste for gamma radiation exposure rates over 10 microRoentgen per hour (10 µR/hr) above background. Pennsylvania places significant restrictions on disposal of material that exceeds the radiation screening limit. If a load of waste triggers an alarm and can be traced to oil and gas production, it may be disposed of in a landfill only if it meets certain requirements. Disposing of higher concentrations and volumes, requires approval from the Bureau of Radiation Protection, additional recordkeeping and waste tracking, and the facility must be able to demonstrate that the dose from all pathways is < 25 millirem per year. The Bureau of Radiation Protection has undertaken a comprehensive study of NORM waste generated during oil and gas activities. This study will build on information gathered by the Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, and the Bureau of Radiation Protection in the 1990s when it determined that no additional regulation was required for oil and gas NORM. A final study report is anticipated by the end of 2014. Based on the scope of the study, the Pennsylvania DEP Bureau of Radiation Protection may undertake additional rulemaking to regulate oil and gas NORM in waste water discharges, and at oil field production and processing sites.
The State of Ohio regulates technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials ("TENORM"), but not NORM. TENORM with concentrations of radium-226 and radium-228 over 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/gm) above background is subject to licensing by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). In its regulations, however, ODH states that TENORM does not include drill cuttings, or natural background radiation. Pursuant to House Bill 59, passed in July 2013, the Ohio EPA Division of Materials and Waste, ODH and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) have issued a guidance document clarifying that the ODH Bureau of Radiation Protection has primary regulatory authority over NORM in oil and gas waste. Specifically, the guidance document states that oil and gas tank bottoms, spent drilling muds and pipe scale could be classified as TENORM. Beginning on September 29, 2013, solid waste facilities in Ohio that accept these materials from unconventional shale gas wells were required to analyze representatives samples from that waste to ensure that concentrations of radium-226 and radium-228 are lower than 5 pCi/gm above natural background. The guidance document requires that any purposeful blending of waste to reduce the radium concentrations may be done only with prior authorization by the ODH, and, possibly by ODNR and Ohio EPA. The Ohio EPA has also indicated an interest in developing further regulations for solid waste facilities that accept waste with TENORM from unconventional gas wells.