The vast amount of waste water produced by fracking can contaminate rivers, lakes and other waterways with radioactive material and hormone-affecting chemicals, according to new research.
The study tested sediments and groundwater downstream of a treatment plant in Pennsylvania that was designed to make the water used as part of the fracking process fit for release into the environment.
The scientists, from Pennsylvania State University and other academic institutions, discovered that despite this process there were “high loads of chloride, barium, strontium, radium and organic compounds” in the Conemaugh River watershed.
Stream sediments in Blacklick Creek, just downstream from one treatment plant, were found to contain about 200 times the level of radium upstream of the plant.
The highest concentration of radium found was just 14 per cent below the level at which it would have to be treated as radioactive waste in some US states.
However the researchers said the risks of the pollutants discovered were “difficult to assess”.
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