Their analyses, made on water samples collected repeatedly over the course of two years, were even more concerning than we’d feared. As published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they found high concentrations of of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition, amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal.
“Even if, today, you completely stopped disposal of the wastewater,” Vengosh says, there’s enough contamination built up that”you’d still end up with a place that the U.S. would consider a radioactive waste site.”