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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published March 05 2014

Proposed rules would track ND oilfield waste 'cradle to grave'

BISMARCK – State health officials are moving up their timeline on setting new rules for radioactive waste generated in the oilfield, prompted by recent stockpiling of waste and other illegal dumping incidents.

The proposed rules, which will be available for public comment in June, will enhance the state’s ability to track the generation, storage, transportation and disposal of waste containing naturally occurring radioactive material, the North Dakota Department of Health said Wednesday.

The health department was waiting for results of an independent study before proceeding with new rules, but the recent stockpiling of oilfield waste known as filter socks in McKenzie County and other incidents prompted officials to address some rules sooner, said Scott Radig, director of the Division of Waste Management.

The details are still being worked out, but the goal is to require all companies that generate waste containing the radioactive material to be registered or licensed with the state, Radig said.

Those companies would be required to keep records on how much of the waste is generated, where it is stored, who transports it, where it’s transported and verification that it was delivered to the proper site, Radig said.

“I think most companies are probably keeping those records, but obviously there are some companies out there that aren’t,” Radig said.

The health department has similar “cradle to grave” rules for companies that generate large quantities of hazardous waste, Radig said.

Darrell Dorgan, spokesman for the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition that has raised concerns about illegal dumping incidents, said the state health department has “failed miserably” at tracking radioactive waste.

“They should have been doing that three, four, five years ago,” Dorgan said of the proposed new rules. “They have completely lost track of it.”

The health department is investigating filter socks containing naturally occurring radioactive waste that were stockpiled on trailers owned by RP Services in McKenzie County. The filter socks came from wells operated by Continental Resources, Radig said.

An attorney for Continental Resources, the top oil producer in the Bakken headed by CEO Harold Hamm, said last week that the company has suspended RP Services as a contractor pending the outcome of the investigation.

The health department could take enforcement action against one or both companies, but currently state officials are focused on ensuring the waste is properly handled and the site is cleaned up.

Although the health department’s new rules are expected to be ready for public comment in June, it could be fall before they take effect, Radig said. After the public comment period, they need review by the Attorney General’s Office, approval from a legislative committee and other steps, Radig said.

“Even though we’re moving this up, it does take a significant period of time,” Radig said.

After a study from Argonne National Laboratory is complete, which is anticipated for the end of this summer, the health department will likely begin developing a second set of rules related to the naturally occurring radioactive material, Radig said.