By Lauren Donovan
State health officials continue to investigate thousands of pounds of potentially radioactive filter socks and debris stored at an oil field service company site in rural McKenzie County.
Two open trailers loaded with torn garbage bags leaking filters and oily matter were reported Thursday and the North Dakota Department of Health ordered the out-of-state company to get them into a proper container no later than Monday, submit a plan for disposal and clean up the contaminated soil.
The socks were apparently used to filter flowback fluids from hydraulic fracturing and David Glatt, chief of the environmental section, said Monday his investigators will identify the oil well owners and any oil field contractors to learn who generated the waste and who all is liable.
He said he also wants to know how long the filter socks had been accumulating on those trailers.
The socks are notorious for concentrating naturally occurring radiation in oil well fluids at levels higher than the state’s threshold of 5 picocuries. They are banned for disposal in North Dakota landfills. Haulers attempting to take them to landfills are subject to fines and being reported.
Instead, oil operators are expected put them in lined containers and ship them to approved waste sites, all located out of state.
Glatt said the department’s radiation control team found “localized contamination on the trailers,” that did not constitute a public health hazard.
The trailers owned by RP Services, of Riverton, Wyo., are outside a shop leased from Russ and Mary Williams, whose separate company was involved in the illegal disposal of filter socks at the McKenzie County landfill in July and a $27,000 fine.
Glatt said the investigation could result in enforcement action for violations in transporting, handling and storing the filter socks.
“We want people to handle this appropriately. Anybody that does not, we will aggressively pursue,” Glatt said. He said oil companies know the rules and should know how subcontractors handle the hazardous waste generated at their wells.
The severity of any enforcement and fines will depend on how many state health rules were broken and over how many days violations occurred, Glatt said.
In the meantime, another garbage bag full of the filter socks was discovered this weekend on the roadway about one mile from the RP Services location.
McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said it appears the waste did not belong to RP Services and the dumping may have been a malicious act by another party.
Glatt said a local oil company, StatOil, agreed to take the garbage bag for proper disposal.
The state may ease its rules so more oil field waste could be disposed of here.
The health department hired an independent laboratory to study radioactive waste, especially in the oil field, and expects to have results this summer.
Glatt said the public will be asked before the department decides to change its rules and raise the level for in-state disposal above 5 picocuries.