Montana Public Radio

State Redrafts Radioactive Waste Limits Following Public Comment

Feb 3, 2020
Originally published on January 31, 2020 5:42 pm

The State of Montana Friday redrafted several proposed regulations for the disposal of radioactive oil waste following widespread public concern.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is in the process of writing its first statewide regulatory guidelines for the disposal of Technologically-Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, or TENORM.

The department released a draft last year.

DEQ spokesperson Rebecca Harbage says, following public feedback, the state re-drafted the rules that determine the limits for TENORM disposal.

DEQ’s new draft lowers its proposed maximum gate limit of 200 picocuries per gram of radioactivity down to 50 picocuries, which is the same as in North Dakota.

Harbage says members of the public had singled out that discrepancy as a source of concern.

“That seemed as though it might be creating an incentive for companies to bring their waste across the border into Montana if there was a legal avenue for them to dispose of it here and not in North Dakota for example,” she says.

Among the proposed change, DEQ now suggests requiring facilities to stop accepting TENORM within 24 hours instead of five days if the facility exceeds limits at its boundary. The facility must then take corrective action before continuing operation.

Because DEQ only re-drafted two rules and their connected provisions, they’re providing 30 days instead of 90 for public comment. That period ends March 02.

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