Officials, new environmental group talk oil field waste concerns

2013-07-18T17:27:00Z Officials, new environmental group talk oil field waste concernsBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. _ A meeting between state officials and members of a newly-formed environmental group concerned about oil field waste left more questions than answers at the state Capitol on Thursday.

Members of the Energy Industry Waste Coalition met with North Dakota Department of Health. Group member Darrell Dorgan said with the explosion of oil and natural gas drilling in western North Dakota, more regulation is needed.

The group is particularly worried about the dumping of radioactive waste in landfills and illegal dumping in remote sites in the oil patch

“The government needs to demand the resources to enforce … regulations,” Dorgan said.

David Glatt, head of the environmental section of the state Health Department, said he was unsure of the cost of a study on expanding rules governing dumping of radioactive oil industry waste.

The study is in the preliminary stage, he said, but it likely could be completed by the end of the year or in early 2014.

Glatt said industry officials approached the state about a study. He said the department was going to have an oil and gas industry organization hire a contractor to conduct the study.

Audience members and coalition members wanted to know why the industry should conduct the study. Glatt said the industry has the money to do it, and he said the Health Department would be setting the parameters of the study to guard against a conflict of interest.

“Industry has a certain viewpoint of the world. Groups like this have a certain viewpoint of the world,” Glatt said. “We want to take an objective look at the science.”

Glatt said the study would look defining a safe level of radiation for oil field waste as well as rules on dumping of waste. Other areas of study would include worker safety and whether any state landfill sites are appropriate.

Dorgan gave a brief slide show with examples of illegal dumping of oil field waste throughout western North Dakota.Among the slides were pictures of filter socks dumped in ditches and other locations.

Filter socks are used to filter toxic saltwater and water used for hydraulic fracturing at well sites. Over time, they can accumulate radioactive particles.

Dorgan said one was even found in a ditch near the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“They’re all over the Bakken and they’re hot,” Dorgan said.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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