Radioactive Shale Oil and Gas Drilling Wastewater Disposal


WHEREAS, high levels of radioactive wastewater from shale oil and shale gas well drilling, typically from one, two or more miles underground, has been found to contain radioactivity levels up to 3,600 times safe drinking water levels and 300 times allowable industrial effluent levels, according to the EPA (1);

WHEREAS, shale oil and gas drilling may release radioactive heavy-metals typically locked within deep rock layers, termed Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, or NORMS; Horizontal shale drilling plus aggressive well stimulation methods, such as hydraulic fracturing and acid matrix stimulation, may release radioactive heavy-metals into the wastewater stream, such as radium, uranium and thorium; That compared to conventional vertical drilling into shallower pooled petroleum reserves, current horizontal shale oil and gas drilling is typically much deeper and involves aggressively disturbing greater amounts of tightly-embedded NORMS. 

 WHEREAS, Radioactivity levels of California drilling wastewater are currently deemed insignificant, based upon a 1996 study during the Administration of Governor Pete Wilson, from vertical-only wells drilled into pooled petroleum resources typically more shallow than shale; The California Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), therefore, deemed all oil drilling wastes to be, a priori, not a potential radioactive hazard. (14) 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, to make obsolete the Wilson Administration era oil drilling wastewater study and undertake a new study to investigate current levels of wastewater radioactivity from horizontal or directional shale wells and potentially radioactive solid shale drilling wastes, such as filters and pipe and tank scale; That radioactivity levels in shale well produced-wastewater be assessed at the well-head and correlated with gamma ray spectroscopy from the original well logs made while drilling. 

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That oil and gas drilling waste having significantly elevated levels of radioactivity above accepted levels of concern, be disposed of and transported in the appropriate manner, if measured above levels deemed safe during the Pete Wilson Era study, while both consistent with and not exempt from general industrial radioactive levels set by California and Federal guidelines; That significantly radioactive drilling-process wastewater be deemed unfit for Class 2 injection wells traditionally used for wastewater with insignificant radiation levels and that the most appropriate and robust storage or injection well must be required for its safe long-term disposal; That significantly radioactive solid oil and gas drilling waste also be disposed of in special radioactivity-capable facilities; That there be prudent consideration of the seismic threats to wastewater injection well integrity

Submitted by Charles Davidson.


Adopted by the California Democratic Party
At its November 2013 Executive Board Meeting
Westin Hotel, Millbrae
November 24, 2013






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