Radioactive Drilling Waste Shipped to Landfills Raises Concerns by ideastream, April 2, 2013
Radioactivity is everywhere, but it’s concentrated – to varying degrees – in materials like radium or uranium found deep in the ground. When companies drill for natural gas, they bring some of those radioactive elements to the surface mixed in the leftover dirt and mud. That waste can be hazardous to living organisms, unless it’s handled carefully. Ohio allows drillers to dispose of their waste in landfills. How much of it is radioactive is something state regulators aren’t stringently keeping track of. Rick Simmers—chief of oil and gas with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources—says the state relies on the drillers to keep records of their solid waste—and the state reviews those records on occasion. Simmers: “The company has to track where they took it, the landfill has to record that they received it, so it would be to verify in an audit or an investigation type situation that that indeed occurred.” Recently, Governor Kasich included a provision in his budget bill that will require gas drillers to test their solid waste for radiation before it gets shipped off. They will also have to share the results with the EPA and Department of Health. Simmers says that’s a little different from the way companies reported their radiation testing results in the past. Simmers: “Historically the test would be done by the company, and then that test would be shared by the company with the landfill. The change would require the company to share that test also with the two government agencies.”
But it’s not just lax reporting that worries Julie Weatherington-Rice, a biological engineering professor at Ohio State University. It’s the radiation. She says even a small amount can pose a health threat. Rice: “It can trigger various kinds of cancer.” Rice says she’s especially concerned that the potentially radioactive dirt gets spread over the top of landfills and could cause a problem if the dirt blows around, or gets wet. Rice: “When it rains on that landfill, or when they use water for dust control, and it works its way down, it mixes into something called leachate which is the liquids that form in the landfill. And that leachate gets collected and it gets taken to a waste water treatment plant to be treated. Well now you’ve got leachate that’s radioactive.” Rice says the fear is that those treatment plants could contaminate the water ways they drain into, like one in Stark County. … Akin: “It’s not just local. It all flows downstream. There’s no boundaries.
That’s why Julie Weatherington-Rice says the state needs more information about the radioactive nature of the Utica Shale and until then, the state shouldn’t allow solid waste from the Utica in landfills. Rice: “These landfills were never designed and never sited to be low level radioactive waste landfills. It should not be going there. It should be treated properly and sent to the right locations.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
EnCana drilling waste dumped on food land near Rosebud in 2012; the Fish Scale Shales in Alberta are reportedly radioactive.
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