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Radioactive oilfield waste found near Watford

Posted 2/25/14 (Tue)

By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer

Late last week a concerned landowner reported a suspected hazardous scene located a few miles south of Arnegard.
Within 48 hours, the North Dakota Department of Health began investigating the two flatbed pickup truck trailers overflowing with thousands of pounds of used, radioactive oil filter socks, which were dripping, what seemed to be, crude oil onto the soil below.
“Right away, we sent two inspectors to do initial checking of radiation,” Scott Radiq, director of the North Dakota Division of Waste Management, said. There were minimal levels of radiation detected, but “it did not appear to be highly hazardous. However, the filter socks and oily material were not managed properly.”
According to Radiq, RP Services, which is a production testing and flowback company that also provides oilfield tools, is responsible for this mess of mishandled material.
“We have asked the company to properly contain the material and submit a plan of clean-up to the North Dakota Department of Health,” Radiq said. “The contamination on the ground needs to be addressed as soon as possible.”
If RP Services does not submit adequate plans and have the material contained by this week, further action will be taken by appropriate officials, Radiq said.
McKenzie County Landfill Solid Waste Director Rick Schreiber was disgusted when learning about this incident.
“This is the worst case that I have seen to date. I’ve never seen anything of this capacity,” Schreiber said. “There are numerous violations here. People know what these things (filter socks) are and that they are not to be handled this way. I want something done.”
Schreiber said he wants this case to be an example to others.
“I don’t think McKenzie County people would want to let this go,” Schreiber said. “Someone has to do something. It is going on - this is happening right here in our backyards.”
He pointed out the fact that this is not likely the only mishandling of hazardous material in the county, or the state. This site just happened to be reported.
“The first report was made by a concerned resident who did the right thing,” McKenzie County State’s Attorney Jake Rodenbiker said. “The North Dakota Department of Health has statutory authority to bring a civil or criminal action in McKenzie County if they find a violation of the law here regarding hazardous waste management, which I understand will be a decision made in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office.”
According to the state’s Department of Health guidelines for oilfield exploration and production associated with waste activities, all environmental incidents involving spills, leaks, dumping or unpermitted storage of oilfield materials, chemicals, fuels and waste materials that may impact human health or environment must be reported to the state and promptly cleaned up.
The guidelines also state that generators of potentially radioactive waste should store it in appropriate and secure containers and have them analyzed for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM). Oil filter socks, such as the waste found at this allotted site, are included in these guidelines.
Schreiber made it clear that the McKenzie County Landfill will not accept filter socks. It is also stated in their list of prohibited wastes.
For each filter sock dropped at the landfill, there is a $1,000 fine. Each load containing filter socks will be rejected, fined and reported to the state of North Dakota, according to Schreiber, even if the socks are deemed non-radioactive.
The North Dakota Department of Health is working with other agencies to further investigate.