Members of Citizens’ Environmental Association of the Slippery Rock Area (CEASRA), a local environmental group, are fighting the opening of the Tri-County Industries landfill in Pine and Liberty Townships, Mercer County.
The owners of TCI currently have an operating landfill, the Seneca Landfill, in Butler County. I recently read an article on the website of the Public Herald, a non-profit, publicly funded source of investigative journalism. and what I found there is shocking.
The Department of Environmental Protection conducted a study of the radioactive hazards of oil and gas technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material, or TENORM, in 2016.
The names and locations of the 144 sites where radioactive waste was detected were kept secret by the DEP, so the Public Herald filed a Right to Know suit to get this information. This data was included in the Public Herald article.
Radium (Ra-226 and Ra-228) is federally regulated for its impact on health, is water soluble, and occurs in TENORM contamination. Ra-226 has a half-life of 1600 years, and as it decays, it releases alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
Once radium gets into the body, it is deposited in bone material, where it stays for a very long time and can cause bone cancer. Radium decays into radon gas that can get into the lungs and can lead to lung cancer.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has established a Maximum Contaminant Level of Ra-226 and Ra-228 at 5 picoCuries per Liter (pCi/L) in drinking water.
Now, back to the Seneca Landfill. According to the DEP data, this landfill discharged 123 pCi/L of radium into Connoquenessing Creek. This is greater than 24 times the amount established by the EPA.
The DEP has permitted this landfill to accept thousands of tons of oil and gas waste, bringing with it contamination of soil, water and air.
If the TCI landfill is opened, oil and gas waste will be deposited there. The leachate discharged by the landfill is slated to be dumped into an unnamed tributary to Black Run, which enters Wolf Creek near Airport Road outside of Grove City.
The water and soil around these waterways will be contaminated with radium, and there will be no practical way to clean it up once it is deposited. This is already occurring at the Seneca Landfill, and there is no reason to believe that it won’t happen here.
State Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-21, Allegheny County, has written three bills — HB1353, HB1354, and HB 1355 — that close the hazardous waste loophole for oil and gas companies who produce fracking waste.
The corresponding bills in the PA Senate are SB644, SB645, and SB646. Please contact your state representative or senator and urge them to support these important bills.
The bills remain in state legislative committees.
Also, consider becoming a member of CEASRA or making a donation to the legal fund currently being used to appeal the landfill permit.
As Rep Innamorato has said, “These bills place the onus on fracking companies to prove their waste is not harmful instead of using Pennsylvania’s families as experimental test subjects.”
BEVERLY GRAHAM, of Grove City, is a member of Citizens’ Environmental Association of the Slippery Rock Area.