North Dakota tentatively approves higher level of radioactivity in oil waste

The North Dakota State Health Council voted unanimously Aug. 11 to adopt rules that would permit waste, including oil field waste, containing radioactivity levels of up to 50 picocuries/g of technologically enhanced radioactive material to be disposed at approved landfills.

The level is tenfold the level of radioactivity that the state currently allows at about a dozen landfills in North Dakota. The 5 picocuries/g was among the lowest in the nation, state officials noted. Texas and Washington set their limits at 10,000 picocuries/g.

Att. Gen. Wayne Stenehjem and the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee have yet to approve the rule change.  Dave Glatt, the health department’s environmental health chief, said the rules possibly could be effective by Jan. 1, 2016.

Unconventional development and production in the Bakken formation means North Dakota has had to deal with more oil waste, including increased problems of illegal oil waste dumping.

Operators of North Dakota’s landfills that accept special waste or industrial waste would have to apply for a permit modification to receive waste containing higher radioactivity, said the 11-member council, which is the governing and advisory group for the state Department of Health.

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