On December 12th, the ND Department of Health (DoH) proposed new limits for oil waste disposal that would drastically alter the way the industry does business in the Bakken region. This comes after a study conducted by Argonne National Laboratory concluded that the level of radioactive material (TENORM) found in waste can actually be much higher than current rates and still be safe for oil and landfill workers.
Amounts of radioactivity are measured in units called picocuries, and the new proposal would multiply the amount allowed in waste material by ten times. Landfills choose to accept the higher TENORM material will be required to go through a new permit modification process, which will provide better accountability for the tracking of the radioactive waste.
As with other shale oil industry issues that have potential environmental and health concerns, this change brings mixed emotions from people with competing interests and those who are refuting the science of the report. The ND DoH has scheduled a series of special meetings in January to hear testimony and public comments concerning the proposal.