West Virginia rejects radioactive drilling waste from Pennsylvania
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports environmental regulators in West Virginia have ordered a landfill to stop accepting shipments of natural gas drilling waste that were rejected by a western Pennsylvania landfill for being too radioactive.
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Range Resources disposed of 12 tons of drilling sludge in a Waste Management landfill in Bridgeport, a few miles west of Clarksburg, West Virginia.
From the Post-Gazette:
Range had tried to dispose of the waste at the Arden Landfill, in Chartiers, Washington County, also operated by Waste Management, in early March. But the shipment from the Malinky well pad, in Smith, Washington County, was rejected when it set off alarms at the gate where its radioactivity was measured at 212 microrems, higher than the landfill’s 150 microrems limit.
Range Resources spokesmen did not return calls seeking comment. Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella previously said that the radioactivity levels of the waste are not dangerous to workers or residents of the area, and that radiation measurements decline to background levels just feet away from the storage containers. Normal background levels in the area are between six and eight microrems.
Naturally occurring radioactive materials are part of the underground shale formation, and can come to the surface during the process of extracting gas.
Last year the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection launched a study to examine radiation associated with oil and gas development. Before the study began, a DEP spokesman said there is no indication the radiation poses a threat to public health.
Unlike Pennsylvania, West Virginia landfills are not required to monitor the radioactivity associated with shale gas drilling waste.
A spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says a new law would require monitoring, but it doesn’t take effect until early next year. She says the agency was already in the process of drafting an emergency rule that would move up the effective date of enforcement to June before this incident occurred.