Examining The Risks Of Radioactive Drilling Waste


On this West Virginia Morning, we visit Clay County where educators are revamping the idea of home economics class to inspire resilience in student populations. We also bring you a conversation about radioactive natural gas drilling waste.

Every day, thousands of trucks filled with waste from natural gas drilling take to the roads across the Ohio Valley. The waste contains radioactivity and poses threats to workers, communities and the environment.

Freelance science journalist Justin Nobel spent nearly two years reporting on this topic. He interviewed hundreds of scientists, environmentalists, state regulators and industry workers, and he uncovered never-before-released early reports from the oil and gas industry that highlight the radioactivity problem and its risks to workers and the public.

Energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson spoke with Nobel via Skype about his reporting published in January in Rolling Stone titled “America’s Radioactive Secret.” We bring you an excerpt from their conversation.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reached out to the trade group, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. In a statement, executive director Anne Blankenship said the industry is highly regulated and does not expose workers or the public to high levels of radiation. She said her association disagrees with the Rolling Stone article, calling it “purposefully misleading, biased and exaggerated.”

Not long ago, home economics was a staple in high school curriculums. Today, budget cuts and an emphasis on testing means most high schools no longer offer these classes. As a result, when kids graduate, they tend to know more about algebra than things like how to wash laundry. One West Virginia high school is trying to help their kids succeed by teaching them not just math and reading, but “adulting.” Kara Lofton reports that educators hope skills to manage life will help build resilience.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.

West Virginia Morning is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting which is solely responsible for its content.

Support for our news bureaus comes from West Virginia University, Concord University, and Shepherd University.