DURHAM, NC -- Much of the naturally occurring radioactivity in fracking wastewater might be removed by blending it with another wastewater from acid mine drainage, according to a Duke University-led study.
"Fracking wastewater and acid mine drainage each pose well-documented environmental and public health risks. But in laboratory tests, we found that by blending them in the right proportions we can bind some of the fracking contaminants into solids that can be removed before the water is discharged back into streams and rivers," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.
"This could be an effective way to treat Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing wastewater, while providing a beneficial use for acid mine drainage that currently is contaminating waterways in much of the northeastern United States," Vengosh said. "It's a win-win for the industry and the environment."
Blending fracking wastewater with acid mine drainage also could help reduce the depletion of local freshwater resources by giving drillers a source of usable recycled water for the hydraulic fracturing process, he added.
"Scarcity of fresh water in dry regions or during periods of drought can severely limit shale gas development in many areas of the United States and in other regions of the world where fracking is about to begin," Vengosh said. "Using acid mine drainage or other sources of recycled or marginal water may help solve this problem and prevent freshwater depletion."
The peer-reviewed study was published in late December 2013 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In hydraulic fracturing or fracking, as it is sometimes called millions of tons of water are injected at high pressure down wells to crack open shale deposits buried deep underground and extract natural gas trapped within the rock. Some of the water flows back up through the we
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