Guest Commentary: Radioactive Shale Waste Hotter to Handle than Realized

Thursday, June 19, 2014

By Ray Beiersdorfer

 

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- In April, residents of Brier Hill joined Frack Free Mahoning Valley to appeal an order issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that authorized Industrial Waste Control/Ground Tech Inc. to operate a plant at 240 Sinter Court in Youngstown.

The plant on Sinter Court will receive potentially radioactive brine, drill-cuttings, drilling mud and tank-bottom sludge from fracking operations that released shale gas.

Sinter Court lies along the Mahoning River, three-fourths of a mile due west of St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

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Fracking hotbed is a regulatory disaster

In Ohio, where gas drilling is booming, legislators have largely failed to address concerns about public safety

NAVEENA SADASIVAM, PROPUBLICA

 

This originally appeared on ProPublica.


Ohio annually processes thousands of tons of radioactive waste from hydraulic-fracturing, sending it through treatment facilities, injecting it into its old and unused gas wells and dumping it in landfills. Historically, the handling and disposal of that waste was barely regulated, with few requirements for how its potential contamination would be gauged, or how and where it could be transported and stored.

With the business of fracking waste only growing, legislators in 2013 had the chance to decide how best to monitor the state’s vast amounts of toxic material, much of it being trucked into Ohio from neighboring states.

But despite calls to require that the waste be rigorously tested for contamination, Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature signed off on measures that require just a fraction of the waste to be subjected to such oversight. The great majority of the byproducts creating during the drilling process 2013 the water and rock unearthed 2013 still do not have to be tested at all.....

 

March 29, 2014DEP: Drillers extract thousands of tons of ‘hot’ rocks in Pa.

 

John Finnerty - CNHI State Reporter - HARRISBURG — "Environmental watchdogs say a system for tracking radioactive material unearthed during gas drilling depends too much on the industry’s self-policing, making it impossible to judge how much waste is generated or how dangerous it might be.Their concern centers on cuttings – the rock unearthed during the drilling process.The deepest rocks are sometimes radioactive. They may become more volatile when exposed to chemicals used during fracking, the popular process for releasing underground reservoirs of natural gas, said Nadia Steinzor, program coordinator for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project of the nonprofit group Earthworks.During 2012, an estimated 4,175 tons of cuttings were radioactive, said Morgan Wagner, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman. The DEP does not have an estimate for how much radioactive material was unearthed last year, Wagner said.Environmentalists say the state’s estimates, when they exist, are difficult to verify." ....

 

Thursday, March 13,2014 - America’s dirtiest secret -How billions of barrels of toxic oil and gas waste are falling through regulatory cracks

 

By Jefferson Dodge and Joel DyerJoel Dyer

 

Trucking costs derail shale recycling -Columbus Dispatch - March 7, 2014

 

By Dean Narciso -The Columbus Dispatch • Friday March 7, 2014 6:07 AM "South Side company has backed off plans to process fracking waste." ....

 

(RadioactiveWasteAlert.org commentary regarding article above) "After RadioactiveWasteAlert.org sent the February 27 press release (see below) regarding Shale Gas Drill Cuttings and the Ohio Soil Recycling Company (OSR), the Columbus Dispatch article, quoted OSR,"Elliott said drilling companies told him that landfill costs had dropped while trucking and fuel costs had risen, preventing them from hauling tons of material to Columbus. Radioactivity, he said, never was an issue. Samples taken from sites tested below state limits.  Elliott said he would still consider processing the waste if the drilling companies return with an offer."

 

Drill Cuttings in every state, but Ohio are considered TENORM (technically enhanced naturally occuring radioactive material) and are required to be tested for radioactvity. Drill Cuttings were redefined by the 2013 Kasich Budget Bill from TENORM to NORM (naturally occuring radioactive material) which does Not have to be tested for radionuclides.  According to OSR, they will voluntarily test for radioactivity.

DOE protocol for radium 226 is a 21 day laboratory test.  Two Drill Cutting test loads were delivered to Ohio Soil Recycling from Chesapeake Energy, and regardless of extensive requests, Scientists and Concerned Citizens have not been successful in securing from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency & Ohio Department of Health, complete Radionuclide test protocol & results for this Authorization."

 

RadioactiveWasteAlert.org Press Release sent out February 27, 2014 -

Ohio Soil Recycling, LLC (OSR), a Columbus, Ohio based business that uses microbes, algae, and bacteria to remediate contaminated soil, will NOT be receiving shale gas solidwaste as previously reported. Drill cuttings will instead be sent to Ohio landfills.

As reported in The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Soil Recycling was authorized by the Ohio EPA to receive solid waste drill cuttings at the Alum Creek Integrity Drive facility. This was to be an alternate method of disposing of shale gas development waste (fracking). Shale gas drill cuttings would be processed, to rid them of drilling lubricants and used to cap the old Franklin County landfill along Alum Creek.

Radioactive Waste Alert, a Columbus area citizen action group, has concerns about the health risks associated with the processing and re-use of this soil. The OSR facility is located along the banks of Alum Creek, one of the Columbus area water supplies.

Shale rock contains radioactive metals, including Radium 228, and 226.

Carolyn Harding, organizer of RadioactiveWasteAlert.org warns, "These radioactive elements are water soluble and could contaminate our water supply".

In a phone message with Harding, on February 14th, Chris Elliott, owner of OSR, stated that OSR had not received drill cuttings, other than the two trial loads that they used for testing, and would not be receiving drill cuttings in the near future. He stated that for now, "We are probably done with the shale stuff altogether".

Harding says that although this alleviates the immediate risk to the Alum creek, and communities downstream, "There is still much to be concerned about," when it comes to the disposal of shale gas drilling-related waste in the Columbus Area Watershed and throughout Ohio.

Drill cuttings, the rock and soil carried to the surface during the drilling process, are labeled as TENORM (technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material), in all states other than Ohio. The 2013 Ohio Budget Bill redefined these drill cuttings from TENORM to NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material), therefore permitting drill cuttings to be dumped in any of Ohio’s 39 licensed municipal solid waste landfills.

"Drill cuttings are currently being dumped cheaply and quickly next to our towns", Harding stated. "These landfills are not safe for low level radioactive waste."

Some fear Ohio has become the dumping ground for the gas and oil industry. Ohio currently injects liquid shale gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing) waste into its 139 active injection wells throughout the state. The Center for Health and Environmental Justice reported that Ohio injection wells accepted 581 million gallons of waste in 2012, much of this coming from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Regulation is running way behind the development of this industry" Harding says. "We don't want Ohio to become a toxic radioactive waste dump for the Shale Gas Industry. We all saw what happened to Charleston, WV. We must protect our Water."

 

Ohio EPA, health officials dismiss radioactive threat from fracking Other states studying health risks in waste

 

By Spencer Hunt - The Columbus Dispatch • Monday January 27, 2014 8:35 AM

"When Pennsylvania environmental officials tested creek mud near a fracking wastewater-treatment plant last year, they found radiation at levels 45 times higher than federal drinking-water standards.As the plant owner prepares to dredge radium from Blacklick Creek, Pennsylvania officials are examining other radiation problems related to Marcellus shale fracking. They’re testing tons of castoff rock and drilling sludge sent to Pennsylvania landfills and liquid waste routinely trucked to Ohio disposal wells.“We’re going all throughout the state,” said Lisa Kasianowitz, a Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman.In West Virginia, radiation concerns have regulators asking landfills to separate shale drilling waste from garbage over worries about the health dangers associated with fracking.Ohio is experiencing a similar drilling boom in which drillers are pulling up radioactive waste from wells. Although it’s unknown how much radiation there is, there are some standards already in place. That’s why state officials say they have no plans for similar surveys or precautions.“We’re not looking at that right now,” said Michael Snee, the Ohio Department of Health’s radiation-protection division chief. Snee said Ohio addressed radiation in a law that took effect on Sept. 29 and redefines how shale waste should be handled and tested before it is sent to landfills. But environmental advocates say the law ignores radiation hazards in liquid waste and makes it easier to dump some waste into landfills without testing.“We have a health risk to be considered. In Ohio, we’re just ignoring it,” said Julie Weatherington-Rice, a senior scientist with Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants in Columbus and a critic of Ohio’s shale-waste laws and regulations.“With each law, we’re getting weaker, not stronger."....

 

 

Radioactive Waste From Bakken Oil Fields Raises Concerns About Local Water Contamination 

 

March 11, 2014 - by Katie Rucke - EcoWatch - "The 200 or so people who call Lindsay, MT, home likely never imagined they would find themselves in the middle of an environmental battle fueled by radioactive waste. But that’s exactly what happened in the small community of farmers and ranchers in Eastern Montana after a local farmer opened a landfill and started collecting naturally occurring radioactive waste materials generated by the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota." ....