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Environmental science & technology

Analysis of radium-226 in high salinity wastewater from unconventional gas extraction by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry.


PMID 25642997

Abstract

Elevated concentration of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) in wastewater generated from Marcellus Shale gas extraction is of great concern due to potential environmental and public health impacts. Development of a rapid and robust method for analysis of Ra-226, which is the major NORM component in this water, is critical for the selection of appropriate management approaches to properly address regulatory and public concerns. Traditional methods for Ra-226 determination require long sample holding time or long detection time. A novel method combining Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) with solid-phase extraction (SPE) to separate and purify radium isotopes from the matrix elements in high salinity solutions is developed in this study. This method reduces analysis time while maintaining requisite precision and detection limit. Radium separation is accomplished using a combination of a strong-acid cation exchange resin to separate barium and radium from other ions in the solution and a strontium-specific resin to isolate radium from barium and obtain a sample suitable for analysis by ICP-MS. Method optimization achieved high radium recovery (101 ± 6% for standard mode and 97 ± 7% for collision mode) for synthetic Marcellus Shale wastewater (MSW) samples with total dissolved solids as high as 171,000 mg/L. Ra-226 concentration in actual MSW samples with TDS as high as 415,000 mg/L measured using ICP-MS matched very well with the results from gamma spectrometry. The Ra-226 analysis method developed in this study requires several hours for sample preparation and several minutes for analysis with the detection limit of 100 pCi/L with RSD of 45% (standard mode) and 67% (collision mode). The RSD decreased to below 15% when Ra-226 concentration increased over 500 pCi/L.

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