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New Oilfield Waste Disposal Rules Eyed in North Dakota

New rules for the handling of waste that could impact oil and natural gas well sites are being examined by the North Dakota Department of Health (DOH) and should be effective in the latter half of 2015.

Following a DOH-commissioned study by the Argonne National Laboratory, state waste management officials have set three public hearings in January to collect comments from the general public and North Dakota's oil/gas industry: Jan. 20, 21 and 22, in Williston, Bismarck and Fargo, respectively. Comments will be taken through Feb. 6.

Argonne's study examined the acceptable levels of technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM), prompting DOH to propose changes to state policy on industrial and oilfield special waste landfills. "We didn't have a lot of good scientific data," Scott Radig, director of the health department's waste management division, told NGI's Shale Daily on Monday.

In addition to increased limits of TENORM, or low levels of radioactive waste, the state is proposing new rules to help improve the traceability of TENORM material, Radig said. State officials said the proposed rules are based on the best available science and are designed for safe and responsible disposal of the waste.

The proposed TENORM tracking rules would require the material to be tracked on a cradle-to-grave basis. Companies that transport the material would need to meet five requirements: be licensed with the Radiation Control Program, register with the Secretary of State, be endorsed for hazardous materials, have a trained radiation safety officer on staff, and submit quarterly load reports to DOH.

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