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State: Illegally dumped radioactive fracking waste will stay

March 25, 2021 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A state agency has chosen to leave millions of pounds of illegally dumped, radioactive fracking waste in an Eastern Oregon landfill.

The Oregon Department of Energy’s decision on Wednesday comes just over a year after it issued a notice of violation to Chemical Waste Management, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The company operates Oregon’s only hazardous waste landfill, outside the Columbia River town of Arlington. An investigation found CWM had dumped 1,284 tons of radioactive waste in the landfill over three years.

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Oregon law prohibits the establishment of a radioactive waste disposal facility.

After the violation, CWM had to come up with a plan and offered to dig it up and ship it to another state, or to leave it and monitor the effects.

The state Department of Energy said removing the waste “would pose a greater risk to landfill workers than leaving the waste in place.”

CWM will be subject to more stringent water quality monitoring and the Department of Energy has directed the company to install a portal to scan shipments of waste for radioactivity.

In 2019, a tipster from North Dakota alerted Oregon regulators that the Oregon landfill might have been accepting radioactive waste from a company disposing of solid waste from a project in the Bakken Formation — one of North America’s largest contiguous oil and natural gas deposits.

An investigation found the company, Goodnight Midstream, contracted Oilfield Waste Logistics to dispose of the solid waste and it “misrepresented” to CWM what material it was sending to be dumped, the Department of Energy’s former assistant director for nuclear safety Ken Niles previously said.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which permits the facility, fined CWM and Oilfield Waste Logistics $60,000 and $308,656, respectively.

“In the manifest that they provided to Chemical Waste Management Arlington, it basically said that this waste does fit within Oregon’s regulations,” Niles said. “Chemical Waste Management did not do their due diligence to ensure what they were being told by OWL was in fact accurate.”

CWM spokesperson Jackie Lang said CWM “had a gap in our process” that the company has now addressed.

“Today, I can say with confidence that we are in full compliance and that our protections are better and stronger than ever,” Lang said.