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North Dakota, Montana lawmakers to discuss radioactive waste

June 8, 2020 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Lawmakers in North Dakota and Montana will discuss ways to dispose of the Bakken’s radioactive oilfield waste as North Dakota residents continue pushing back against several proposed disposal projects.

The conversations come as Montana gets ready to enact an official rule capping the radiation level of oilfield waste disposed of at the state’s landfills. North Dakota, which doesn’t have disposal facilities and is responsible for most of the waste, has several ongoing projects to inject the material underground for permanent storage in McKenzie County.

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Montana Rep. Steve Gunderson told the Bismarck Tribune that he and North Dakota Sen. Dale Patten are collaborating to get a group of lawmakers in their respective states on a video call so they can share ideas.

“I felt that we needed to actually shake hands with North Dakota as legislators and ensure that both sides were looking at the same exact issues,” said Gunderson.

The planned talks come as companies continue proposing disposal projects in North Dakota.

“It’s a problem that just needs a solution,” said Keith Norbeck, vice president of KT Enterprises, which already operates saltwater disposal sites in North Dakota and is pursuing a plan to inject the oilfield waste back underground at a site near Watford City.

Waste Management of North Dakota has also proposed a second slurry injection site with two wells near the KT Enterprises location.

Keith Norbeck, vice president of KT Enterprises, said he envisions the two facilities handling most of the market for the Bakken’s radioactive waste.

However, the Waste Management’s proposal has spurred concerns from nearby landowners, with 26 residents signing onto a letter submitted to the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, one of the agencies involved in the authorization process.

“We now have too many trucks, noise, and very bad odor problems that cause health issues,” said the landowners, who have asked the state not to permit another facility in the area.

Waste Management spokeswoman Julie Ketchum said the material is basically odorless, but noted the company has taken steps to assuage residents’ concerns.

“These measures include moving most of the activity on-site indoors and installing charcoal filters to mitigate odors,” she said.

Both the KT Enterprises and Waste Management projects await consideration from the state’s Environmental Quality.

Katie Haarsager, a spokeswoman for the Oil and Gas Division, said the sites also need to secure more permits from the North Dakota Industrial Commission to drill the slurry wells and may need to obtain some approvals from local officials.

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This story has been updated to correct the last name of the Montana legislator to Gunderson, not Gunders.

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