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Antero Works to Reassure on Hot Sludge, Frack Waste

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The company behind a planned frack wastewater recycling plant says low-level radioactive waste that would come from it will be properly disposed of. (Sierra Club)
The company behind a planned frack wastewater recycling plant says low-level radioactive waste that would come from it will be properly disposed of. (Sierra Club)
May 12, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The sludge that would come from an Antero frack wastewater recycling plant would be low-level radioactive material, but Antero says it will be properly disposed of.

Some people in Doddrige County and the gas fields are worried about what will happen to the somewhat radioactive filter cake that would come from the proposed Antero Clearwater plant.

Antero has not said specifically where that hot sludge would go. But regional senior vice-president for Antero Resources in Appalachia, Al Schopp said they are in negotiations with a number of specialized facilities around the county.

"We are taking a hundred percent responsibility," he said. "Whether that be in water, salt or sludge, a hundred percent of that waste stream will be going to a facility certified to take that type of waste."

Antero Clearwater is designed to take in the full 60,000 barrels of the company's frack wastewater a day. Schopp said it would then supply all of the water they need for their drilling here.

The process of filtering the salt and other waste out of the frack flowback and produced water would concentrate the naturally occurring uranium and radium. Schopp said the salt and water coming out would be extremely clean and safe. But by one estimate the remaining filter cake would be one hundred times as radioactive as the waste going in. It's worth stressing that this wouldn't be high-level radioactive waste such as that from nuke plants or hospitals. But Schopp said the Naturally Occurring Radioactive Waste (NORM) and Technologically Enhanced NORM (TENORM) does have to be handled carefully.

"There was some concern about the Hughes watershed, and I think that we heard the people," he said. "There was a significant amount of angst around whether or not NORM or TENORM would be going into the Doddridge County Landfill."

Schopp said Antero Clearwater is part of a long-term plan. He said they expect to be drilling in the Marcellus and Utica for twenty years. Waste injection wells have been one of the most problematic parts of the booming gas industry. Schopp said while drillers are dependent on the injection wells now, their plan is to totally replace their use of them.

"In five to ten years, injection wells will be old technology, and if somebody said you can no longer do injection wells, that would literally shut off the industry as we know it today," he added.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV