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NYT Article Prompts Calls To Test Pennsylvania Water

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- There are new developments concerning radioactive material in our rivers and streams and now there are calls for statewide testing.

The New York Times has now raised a special concern that radium and other radioactive materials found in the water are also finding their ways into our rivers and streams, jeopardizing our drinking water.

Most frac water is now treated and reused. Hart Resource Technologies, in Indiana County, treats the water and discharges it into nearby Black Lick Stream – part of the Allegheny River water basin. Paul Hart, president of HRT, says it's virtually free of radioactivity.

In treating the frac water, radium and other heavy metals form solids that can be removed.

"The radiation is found in the solids and the vast majority of will come out with the solids," Hart said.

The solids settle into a slurry tank and eventually hardened and are pressed into cake-like bricks to be taken to a landfill. Hart says the water that is then ready for discharge is virtually drinkable except for a high salt content.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan: "What about the radiation?"

Hart: "I have no problem with that."

Sheehan: "You would drink it if it had no salt in it?"

Hart: "If you want to put pickles in it to make some brine, I would be fine with it."

But environmentalists like Myron Arnowitt with Clean Water Action are not swayed.

"There is radioactivity coming out of the well sites, it comes from the shale, gets into the waste water and then that goes into the river," he said.

Arnowitt says the state has not done comprehensive testing for radioactivity of water treatment discharges and drinking water and the public is largely going on the word of those treating the water.

"There's clearly radioactivity that's getting into the river," says Arnowitt, "we need to have a better idea of how much."

Hart agrees that statewide testing will settle doubts as would tours of his treatment plant.

"Come to facilities like ours," he said. "People have found that there is a much better handle on this than what they realize."

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