Naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in produced water have been raised as an environmental issue. NORM is a difficult regulatory problem because relatively little information is available about the fate of radioisotopes in produced water discharges for offshore platforms, and reliable data on bioaccumulation of radium isotopes by marine animals are lacking. Concern over the potential bioaccumulation and bioavailability of NORM in indigenous populations of marine organisms living in the vicinities of offshore platforms has necessitated a careful examination of NORM concentrations in produced water and the offshore marine environment from environmental and human-health (human consumption) perspectives.

Nine offshore oil and gas facilities were sampled to investigate the fate and environmental effects of NORM in produced water discharged into the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Field data collection occurred during Spring/Summer 1993., Samples of produced water and bivalve mollusks living on the platforms were collected at the offshore platforms. Receiving water and sediment samples were collected at four platforms. In addition, water and sediment samples were collected at four ambient (background) reference sites in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. All samples were analyzed for the isotopes 226Ra, Ra, and 210Pb. The data are presented with preliminary interpretation.

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