Oil and gas wastewater as road treatment: Radioactive material exposure implications at the residential lot and block scale
Environmental Research Communications
Deicer, NORM, Oil and gas brine, Road impacts
The resurgence of oil and gas extraction in the Appalachian Basin has resulted in an excess of oil and gas brines in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Primarily driven by unconventional development, this expansion has also impacted conventional wells and consequently, created economic pressure to develop effective and cheap disposal options. Using brine as a road treatment, directly or as a processed deicer, however, creates substantial concern that naturally occurring radioactive material in the brines can contaminate roads and road-side areas. Current decision making is based on risk exposure scenarios developed by regulatory agencies based on recreational users in rural areas and exposures to drivers during a typical commute. These scenarios are not appropriate for evaluating exposures to residential deicer users or people living near treated streets. More appropriate exposure scenarios were developed in this work and exposures predicted with these models based on laboratory measurements and literature data. Exposure scenarios currently used for regulatory assessment of brine road treatment result in predicted exposures of 0.4â€“0.6 mrem/year. Residential exposures predicted by the scenarios developed in this work are 4.6 mrem/year. If the maximum range of near-road soil radium concentrations observed in the region is used in this residential scenario (60 pCi/g226Ra, 50 pCi/g228Ra), residents living near these roads would be exposed to an estimated 296 mrems/year, above regulatory exposure thresholds used in nuclear facility siting assessments. These results underline the urgent need to clarify exposure risks from the use of oil and gas brines as a road treatment, particularly given the existing disparities in the distribution of road impacts across socioeconomic status.
Bain, D., Cantlay, T., Garman, B., & Stolz, J. (2021). Oil and gas wastewater as road treatment: Radioactive material exposure implications at the residential lot and block scale. Environmental Research Communications, 3 (11). https://doi.org/10.1088/2515-7620/ac35be