CHARLESTON — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offered what it hoped would be a reassuring report on radiation levels of horizontal gas well drill cuttings delivered to public landfills. It received mixed reactions from legislators and audience members.

Mike Dorsey, DEP’s chief of Homeland Security and Emergency Response, presented the report to the joint interim Judiciary Committee on Monday, Nov. 17.

In response to concerns about the health effects of the cuttings, and the liquid leachate that emerges from the landfills, the DEP study — separate from a similar WVU study — was conducted at 15 sites last year and this year.

Dorsey said DEP staff took radiation readings from cuttings at various drilling sites, the Wetzel County landfill, among other places, and leachate treated at a Chesapeake Appalachia water treatment plant in Ohio.

The readings “are at very low levels,” he said. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits whole body exposure to dangerous “ionizing radiation” to 5 rem per year (a rem is one of several radiation measures and deals with human exposure).

Readings from the cuttings generally ranged from .01 millirem (a thousandth of a thousandth of a rem) to .05 millirem per hour, Dorsey said. The two highest readings – .15 millirem per hour – would only reach a quarter of the OSHA annual limit.

He told Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, “If you were lying in stuff because you couldn’t get out, you still couldn’t get to 5 rem per year.”