Keith Matheny | Detroit Free Press
A state senator says he wants to prevent Michigan from further becoming other states’ dumping ground for low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas drilling process known as fracking.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation to stop companies in other states, such as Pennsylvania, from dumping low-level radioactive waste materials in Michigan landfills.
The Free Press reported Tuesday that a hazardous-waste landfill in Van Buren Township, Wayne Disposal, is to receive up to 36 tons of low-level radioactive sludge from a fracking operation in Washington County, Pa. The sludge was rejected by landfills in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“I’m angry that this is occurring in ‘Pure Michigan,’ ” Jones said. “It could harm the tourism industry.”
Wayne Disposal is a subsidiary of EQ — the Environmental Quality Company. EQ was purchased in June by USEcology, one of the nation’s largest environmental services companies. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2006 approved the landfill, located between Willow Run Airport and I-94, to receive “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material,” or TENORM. It’s waste that contains accumulated radioactivity that rises above typical, naturally occurring ambient levels.
Wayne Disposal’s website lists accepting TENORM as a specialty and notes that a common source of the waste is “oil and gas extraction and processing operations.”
Other states where fracking is more prevalent than in Michigan — such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia — have tightened regulations on handling and disposing of TENORM. An Ohio official recommended the Wayne Disposal site last year as an option for that state’s oil and gas drillers to use in disposing of radioactive drilling waste.
“I will be working to adopt the same tough standards as other states, because the risk that this type of waste may pose to our lakes and rivers is simply too great,” Jones said. “Michigan needs to send a loud and clear message to other states that we don’t want their radioactive sludge.
“It is not just about protecting Michigan residents; it is about being responsible with how we protect the world’s largest collection of fresh water.”