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Know your filter socks: Dunn Co. sheriff warns citizens to stay away if they find potentially radioactive waste

By Katherine Lymn, The Dickinson Press

MANNING — After one of his deputies found a filter sock in a roadside ditch last week, Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker wants the public to know what they look like if they find one — and to stay away if they do.

After a deputy spotted the dirty sock north of Manning, the office, county Emergency Manager Denise Brew and the Southwestern District Health Unit responded. The sock was not determined to be radioactive.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous, as it could’ve had other chemicals on it, said Joe Wanner, emergency preparedness coordinator for Southwestern District Health.

With people out cleaning up trash as the weather warms, Coker said he wants them to know what a filter sock is so they leave it there and call his office.

Wanner also said precautions for filter socks could be applied to certain other waste, too. If it’s “anything out there that’s unusual, just stay away from it,” he said.

With the amount of natural radiation in the ground here, there’s a good chance it’ll get picked up in industrial waste, Wanner added.

Filter socks are a common byproduct of the oil industry, and can contain naturally occurring radioactive material. There is no place in the state to dispose of them, so oil companies have to hire special waste contractors to pick them up and bring them to states with the appropriate facilities.

Coker suggested oil companies help dispose of socks found along roads because the companies are already equipped to dispose of them legally. At a meeting Thursday night, a Marathon Oil representative said the company would help with that.

“They gotta send theirs off anyway,” the sheriff said.

While many filter socks are harmless, emergency responders say you never know.

“It’s not that we’re trying to scare everybody, it’s just to bring to the attention the possibility of what these things could hold,” Brew said. “You never know on each individual one how much radiation they might hold.”

Last week’s case was hardly criminal — the sock could’ve blown off a truck by accident, Coker said.

But the radioactive waste is a hot topic after stockpiles of filter socks were found in Watford City and Noonan.

“Hopefully — cross our fingers — we never see a situation like that in Dunn County,” Brew said.

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