The Gift that Keeps on Giving: North Dakota Radioactive Waste

As North Dakota officials try and determine how to regulate and dispose of the Bakken’s radioactive fracking waste, the sea of contamination gets deeper by the day. According to representatives at the North Dakota Dept. of Health, new rules regulating the waste will be finalized sometime late this year or early in 2016. Until then, toxic waves from the Bakken will continue to break in Montana, Idaho and Colorado.  

Illegal dumping of oilfield filter socks is just the tip of the toe in a walk-in closet full of toxic waste. The rules do not address drill cuttings, drill stems, or down hole equipment. They also ignore the threat to workers health who tool the equipment and may have some of the greatest risk from exposure to the radioactive waste.

While the state’s rulemaking, which proposes to raise the limits on radioactive waste allowed in North Dakota landfills, may slow radioactive waste from flowing into other states, it also accommodates industry to the detriment of North Dakotans. It continues and encourages the corporate industrialization of North Dakota and the surrounding region. The State is throwing the radioactive waste and the rights of residents to protect their families and communities into the same landfills.  

Can North Dakota officials handle the waste streams the Bakken is generating? Do they understand any of the implications from the development? It appears their focus is on one thing… getting more money from fracking.

What is certain is no one inside or outside the state wants, or should be forced, to accept the waste from the behemoth called the Bakken.

Earthworks' comments on the rule call on North Dakota to address the big picture when it comes to Technologically Enhanced Normally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM) waste.

North Dakota should:

  • Evaluate and include drill cuttings in the TENORM rule.
  • Evaluate and include drill stems, drill bits, pipe, and down hole equipment in the TENORM rule.    
  • Evaluate TENORM waste as it ages and keep it isolated.
  • Protect workers from TENORM waste.
  • Stop exposing the public to unknown amounts of decaying TENORM by prohibiting all pits.