Company suspected of dumping radioactive frac waste in Montana ordered to stop by Tom Lutey, April 26, 2014, Billings Gazette
A Louisiana trucking company believed to have illegally dumped radioactive waste in an Eastern Montana landfill for nearly two years has been ordered to stop by state officials. Dual Trucking and Transport, of Houma, La., has been ordered by the Department of Environmental Quality to cease all operations near the Bakken community of Bainville. DEQ officials, who began inspecting more than a year ago, say that as early as July 2012, and without a permit, Dual Trucking and Transport began accumulating mildly radioactive soil and oil filter socks, as well as other Bakken waste at the site.
The waste site is a couple hundred yards upwind from a housing development in a sandy-soiled region where the water the table is high enough to produce wetlands. Dual was warned in Sept. 2012 to stop operations until it was licensed by DEQ’s Solid Waste Program. At that time, it also ordered to hire a qualified consultant to develop a cleanup plan and begin removing waste. Dual eventually started the permit process, but then declined state requests for further information, later informing DEQ the company was no longer processing oilfield waste and didn’t need a permit. However, earlier this month, DEQ inspected the site again and found Dual still managing solid waste without a permit. Contacted by the Gazette, Dual did not respond to questions about the closure.
The DEQ action comes amid rising reports of illegally disposed Bakken oilfield waste, namely filter socks, used to trap naturally occurring radioactive silt driven above ground during hydraulic fracturing. Garbage bags full of the filters have been discovered abandoned in a shuttered North Dakota gas station and on a flatbed trailer near a landfill in that state. North Dakota doesn’t have a facility that handles radioactive waste.
The northeastern Montana town of Bainville, with 300 residents, is about to see explosive growth as a rail facility to off-load fracking sand and a 350-person man camp for the workers are built. Developers say they will build a Marriott hotel, retail stores and perhaps a dozen housing developments in and around Bainville to serve the Bakken oil boom. In Culbertson, a few miles west of Bainville, Mayor Gordon Oelkers is concerned about a private permit application to accept radioactive material on 160 acres seven miles north of town. “We have no authority over squat. I think DEQ will approve it,” Oelkers said. “It’s just the location of it. Within a mile of that facility there are 12 residences. It’s just a terrible location for people.” There’s no doubt, facilities will pop up in North Dakota to handle radioactive waste, Oelkers said, but what concerns the mayor is that Montana’s threshold for radioactive waste is twice what North Dakota regulators allow. That means the worst of the waste will likely be shipped to Montana.
But what concerns Oelkers are the drilling chemicals that are mixed into the soil during the drilling process. Technically, facilities that accept earth only aren’t landfills, said Smith, they’re land farms. The sanitarian sees a big difference. But at the Dual Trucking and Transportation site, there are signs of both contaminated soil and other oilfield waste. A long-line of heavy steel containers lines the south and west sides of the property. DEQ reports indicate that some of the containers were full of filter socks during a previous inspection. Dual also had a tank of fluid waste to dispose of, which couldn’t be dealt with because it froze solid over the winter.
Dual informed DEQ that the waste would be moved to Canada, but did not indicate where.
Tuesday morning, five days after being told to stop operations in Bainville, Dual crews were still excavating the site. As the sun rose, the arms and legs of yellow hazardous materials suits could be seen blowing out of a red steel container that had been left open. [Emphasis added]
Marcellus Waste Radioactivity In Water Leaching From Landfills taking drilling cuttings in W Virginia by Public News Service, April 21, 2014
Tests show that wastewater from gas field landfills contains radioactivity. That is raising concerns about the disposal of Marcellus Shale drill cuttings. Bill Hughes, chair, Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, said tests on water leaching from the Meadowfill landfill near Bridgeport show widely varying levels of radioactivity, sometimes spiking to 40 times the clean drinking water standard. The radioactivity occurs naturally in the drill cuttings and brine that come from Marcellus gas wells, he said, so it is in the waste dumped in Meadowfill and other landfills.
“We are putting radioactive waste in a bunch of landfills in large quantities, and we don’t yet know the long-term danger of doing this,” Hughes said.
Water leaching from Meadowfill averaged 250 picocuries per liter last year. The clean drinking water standard is 50, Hughes explained, adding that at times Meadowfill spiked as high as 2,000 picocuries or dropped below 40. Wetzel – the other landfill taking large amounts of the waste – also showed radioactivity. The drinking water standards are probably too tight to use on fluids leaching from a landfill, he said, but the solid waste authority is defaulting to the tougher standard, simply because the county is not set up to deal with radioactive waste in municipal garbage dumps. “It might not be a significant problem, because we’ve put a lot of other nasty stuff into the Ohio River,” he said. “But especially after Elk River, we should really want to know what we are putting into the landfills and what’s going into surface waters.”
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, landfills are a safe and appropriate place to put the drill cuttings.
Hughes said the entire process shows that the state is playing catch-up to a big, rapidly moving industry. “We haven’t normally been putting radioactive material in a municipal waste landfill. We’re not set up to process, handle, test, dispose. We don’t know what we’re doing,” Hughes warned. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Rachel Maddow Show: illegal radioactive dump site found in remote North Dakota town, Noonan mayor angry over situation with radioactive filter socks
North Dakota frac’d Bakken radioactive oilfield waste spilling out of trailers parked on rural land near Watford City: When the filter socks are “that orange color, we know they’re hot”
What to do with all the oil field dregs, some of it radioactive, some of it toxic, and there’s more and more of
Encana waste dumped on foodland in 2012 near Rosebud