On Thursday, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing on draft rules to oversee the disposal of radioactive oil waste in the state.
Radioactive oil waste, also known as TENORM, is the sludge that’s pulled out of the ground when companies are fracking or drilling for oil. It is way less radioactive than nuclear waste, but it is still considered a hazard and this is the first time the state has tried to regulate it.
“It’s something that I can say with confidence warrants regulations in an environmental sound and sensible manner," says Ed Thamke with the DEQ. "But it’s not something that people should get so excited about that it scares them beyond reason.”
Around forty people attended the public hearing in Helena and more than a dozen testified, including Rachel Torres, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council.
“After hearing everyone testify, I believe that some of the rules leave a little bit to be desired,” she says.
Torres lives downstream from the only radioactive oil waste disposal site in Montana, near Glendive, and says while she’s happy the DEQ is finally putting regulations on these sites, the rules don’t go far enough.
Torres wants third-party testing, groundwater monitoring, and post-closure care of these landfills that lasts longer than thirty years.
“I feel a thirty-year period is insufficient to address these types of facilities," she says. "Materials will remain radioactive for many decades and that’s not something my kids or my eventual grandkids should have to deal with.”
The DEQ will be accepting public comment on the rules until Oct. 18th. Another public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 20th in Sidney at the MonDak Heritage Center.