Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not Wyoming Yet: The Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling “Play”

by Hugh Rogers
August, 2008
A couple of years ago, a local geologist warned us about radon. A radioactive gas, radon may be harmless in small quantities but carcinogenic if it builds up in your basement. The geologist told us that radon leaks from the 365 million-year-old black shale that underlies this part of Randolph County.

Some health-related web sites call radon “the silent killer.” You might know it as NORM, “naturally occurring radioactive material.” For about $15, you can get a test kit at a hardware store to see if radon in your house is within safe limits. If it isn’t, you’d better find a way to vent it.

This low-level hazard wasn’t much talked about until last month, when the general public became aware that the natural gas industry had focused on a black shale, the Marcellus Formation. Radiation suddenly appeared in a constellation of dangers the new gas rush could bring. For everyone living above the black shale—it covers 54,000 square miles from southern New York across Pennsylvania to Ohio and West Virginia—the situation was no longer NORMal, and the public was no longer silent.