North Dakota Proposes New Bakken Waste Rules

Bakken Waste
Bakken Waste

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.

Currently, approved landfills can accept waste of up to 5 picocuries per gram, which is approximately equivalent to background radiation. Extremely low standards were established because of a lack of available scientific data at the time,” said Dave Glatt, Environmental Health section chief for the NDDoH. “Our proposed rules are based on the best available science and will allow for the responsible and safe disposal of TENORM generated in North Dakota.

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.

Read more about radioactive waste disposal

photo credit: joerodzcc