Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Louisiana Set to Ban Dumping of Radioactive Residue into State Waters New Law Prohibits Long-Time Practice, but Oil Producers Claim Danger Is Overrated and Point to Loss of Revenue

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Louisiana Set to Ban Dumping of Radioactive Residue into State Waters New Law Prohibits Long-Time Practice, but Oil Producers Claim Danger Is Overrated and Point to Loss of Revenue

Article excerpt

FOR more than five decades radioactive contamination in Louisiana oil fields has been a subject usually ignored by the general public and hotly debated by scientists.

Now, with a state environmental law set to go into effect next month prohibiting oil and gas companies from discharging potentially radioactive water into coastal waterways, the matter has become a political football.

Environmentalists and petrochemical-company officials are arguing over just how dangerous radioactive contamination is.

"We've had this kind of contamination since oil production first started in Louisiana," says Kerry St. Pe, a regional coordinator with Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). "But as an issue, it has only gained public awareness in the past two years or so. Now, as more people know about the dangers of radioactive contamination, their concerns are increasing, and hopefully these new rules will address those concerns."

Elements are widespread

Although thorium, radium, and other naturally occurring radioactive materials can be found in the ground almost anywhere throughout the United States, in Louisiana such elements are brought to the surface and enter the environment through mining and drilling.

According to the DEQ, such elements in Louisiana have traditionally been disposed of through individual oil-field discharges that are then dumped into large bodies of water. "Wherever you have an oil field here, you're going to have this type of discharge," says Mr. St. Pe. "It's pumped to the surface with the water and oil, and when the pipes through which produced water flows develop scales, that's where the radium is concentrated."

A recent DEQ report disclosed that there are currently more than 700 discharge sites in Louisiana that emit about 2 million barrels of produced water daily.

The water can be dangerous; a study released last week by Louisiana State University (LSU) said discharges from two coastal oil operations led to vastly accelerated rates of mutation in minnows.

"Since the observation of chromosomal aberrations is usually rare in the cells of these organisms, and since cell replication and differentiation are maximal in the early developmental stages of these and other aquatic organisms, the result suggests that the potential exists for adverse effects of these discharges on estuarine productivity," the LSU report said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.