Record natural gas production by hydraulic fracturing is leading to widespread radioactive contamination of U.S. soils and water bodies, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Scientists from Duke University mapped more than 3,900 accidental wastewater spills from oil and gas production pads in North Dakota. Soil and water testing revealed the “widespread” presence of radioactive materials, heavy metals, and corrosive salts. “Selenium was found in water at levels as high as 35 times the federal thresholds set to protect fish, mussels, and other wildlife,” DeSmogBlog reports.
“Unlike spilled oil, which starts to break down in soil, these inorganic chemicals, metals, and salts are resistant to biodegradation,” said lead author Nancy Lauer. “They don’t go away. They stay.”
Citing U.S. Energy Information Administration figures, meanwhile, Climate Change Central reports that America’s shift from coal to natural gas for power generation brought greenhouse emissions from the two fossil sources to the same level in the last year.