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AS I SEE IT

Posted 2/25/14 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The discovery of hundreds of radioactive filter socks being stored on two flatbed trailers south of Watford City last Thursday raises a couple of very disturbing questions. First, is anyone monitoring the oil companies that are purchasing these filter socks that are being used in the oilwell fracking process? Second, and apparently more equally important, is anyone monitoring and ensuring that all of the used filter socks are being properly disposed of in approved landfills?
One would assume that the answer to these questions would be yes. But if the answer is no, then it is an issue that the State Health Department and the North Dakota Industrial Commission need to quickly address.
As we have seen in the past in McKenzie County, individuals and/or companies have tried to dispose of these radioactive filter socks in some rather unscrupulous manner. They have tried to hide them in garbage sacks and toss them in dumpsters in Watford City. They have tried to bury them among other garbage being hauled to the McKenzie County Landfill. And no doubt, rather than pay the cost of properly disposing of these contaminated filter socks, one can only assume they have also been tossed into our road ditches, thrown into coulees and creeks, and probably buried in fields.
With the county landfill already generating over $250,000 in fines from people trying to sneak 250 filter socks into that facility, we know that the problem with correct disposal of used filter socks is huge.
And McKenzie County Landfill Solid Waste Director Rick Schreiber speaks for not only himself, but all of McKenzie County residents, when he expressed his disgust at this recent discovery of filter socks piled high on trailers and oozing liquids onto the ground.
The people of McKenzie County are already living with the dirt and the filth associated with the oil-related traffic. We are driving on the deadliest roadways in the state and seeing our country roads being destroyed with every rig move. We are struggling to meet the demands being placed on us for more housing, more school classrooms and more healthcare services. We are seeing our once quiet rural, lifestyle being turned upside down as our cities are being transformed into something that we had never imagined. And we are seeing our beautiful countryside being covered with thousands of oilwells, saltwalter disposal sites, natural gas processing plants, powerlines, man camps and other oilfield-related shops.
While we can, and will, do our best to get through the challenges that we are facing, what we cannot tolerate is our countryside being turned into a landfill for radioactive filter socks simply because no one is providing adequate monitoring.
The oil industry and the State of North Dakota at least owe the people of McKenzie County some assurances going forward that it will provide the correct monitoring of the proper disposal of these filter socks. And for those companies and/or individuals who choose to  continue to not follow state law when it comes to properly disposing of radioactive filter socks, then they should face the toughest penalties that can be dished out.