Fracking’s radioactive sock hop and hide-and-seek

pickup used NORM socks
Pickup loaded with used filter socks was found on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation

Here’s a problematic fracking by-product that never occurred to me: radioactive socks.

When I first read the phrase I thought of of weary drillers trudging out of fracking fields late at night, invisible but for a glowing green inch of material between their shoes and trouser hems. But then I kept reading and discovered the socks in question were actually filter socks, which look like tube socks designed for an elephant.

When chemical-laced water is injected into the ground during a hydraulic fracturing operation, some of it returns to the surface and must be collected. The flowback contains water, chemicals, salts, metals and organic compounds; it all passes through filter socks, which capture the solid particles. The liquid is disposed of in various ways, and filter socks are disposed of at municipal and residual waste landfills.

Unless they happen to be radioactive.

This is quite a problem in North Dakota, where naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is common in certain parts of the Bakken shale. North Dakota landfills will not accept waste with radioactive levels higher than 5 picocuries per gram, and the average filter sock’s level ranges from five to eighty, although one did clock in at 374.

A year ago, after landfill Geiger counters began clicking incessantly, the government helpfully distributed pamphlets listing businesses that would accept radioactive waste. Since the nearest ones were in South Dakota, Colorado and Utah, this has led to a spate of radioactive sock dumping…

“There are only a few places that have facilities designed to take radioactive materials, and North Dakota is not one of them,” says Kurt Rhea, the CEO of the Colorado-based radioactive waste removal company Next Generation Solutions. Rhea’s company has contracts with certain companies fracking the Bakken shale; picking up a container of waste, trucking it out of state, and disposing with it properly costs about $8,000. He guesses that approximately 20% of North Dakota’s radioactive waste is being disposed of properly. What about the rest?

Good question,” he responds.

Not a new question, of course. A number of states have had to work through the problem of radioactive socks. It’s why it’s a stock item – as are the solutions. The reasons for this qualifying as a problem are the usual: cheapskate drillers trying to squeeze every possible penny out of the hole – and cooperative, corrupt politicians who look the other way instead of enforcing the usual solutions.

Something we’ve gone through in New Mexico though our problem isn’t radioactive socks; but, the crud that ends up in drilling mud pits. We passed solid regulations during Governor Bill’s administration; but, we have to watch the current occupant in the governor’s mansion like a hawk. Susana Martinez is owned lock, stock and oil barrel by the Oil Patch Boys. She’d like nothing better than to eliminate the NM pit rule.

Meanwhile, as the article stated, states down the road from North Dakota have landfills up to spec for NORM materials. Even Iowa has one. If they can build something like that that doesn’t piss off Republican hog farmers it can’t be too hard or extra expensive.

Thanks, Mike

Midwest volunteers aid seized animals

Dozens of volunteers descended on a farm near Hampshire, Illinois, on Tuesday to whisk away more than 90 animals, including horses, goats and alpacas, after their owner was charged with cruelty and failing to provide proper care.

The heavy-duty pickups lined both sides of Illinois Route 20, each hauling a horse trailer. One by one, the handlers loaded an underfed animal aboard.

“You’re going to be beautiful in a couple months,” one woman said soothingly before the malnourished horse obediently stepped into its trailer.

Stacy Fiebelkorn, 44, of Elgin, was charged last week with misdemeanor cruelty to animals and failing to provide care and shelter. Kane County animal control officials said they found several dead animals and others seriously ill at two farms where she leased space, one near Maple Park in Kane County and the other near Hampshire. All of the animals lacked access to water, officials said.

The owner of the farm near Hampshire told authorities last week that the animals could remain there but on Monday asked authorities to move them. So the rescue effort got underway, the caravan of trucks hauling dozens of animals — miniature horses, donkeys and caged rabbits among them — to two farms near Maple Park.

More than 100 volunteers answered the call for help, which was put out through social and traditional media…

Kane Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers, whose department oversees animal control, said volunteers came from throughout the Chicago area, even from Wisconsin…

Fiebelkorn ran a petting zoo and rescue operation, according to authorities, and may have become overwhelmed with the number of animals under her care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which issues licenses to animal exhibitors, canceled Fiebelkorn’s license to operate a petting zoo on March 6, after receiving a complaint from a private citizen, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Fiebelkorn had been cited 13 times for violating some provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act during unannounced inspections dating to May 2012, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Neighbors helping neighbors ain’t restricted to urban neighborhoods. Fortunately.

Folks helping animals also understand that critters are part of every neighborhood.

Man walks free of death row after 26 years in Louisiana pen

Glenn Ford – a long time ago

A man who spent nearly 26 years on death row in Louisiana walked free Tuesday, hours after a judge approved the state’s motion to vacate the man’s murder conviction in the 1983 killing of a jeweler.

Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988 in connection with the death of 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler and watchmaker for whom Ford had done occasional yard work. Convicted of first-degree murder by an all-white jury, Ford, who is African-American, had always denied killing Rozeman.

Ford walked out the maximum security prison at Angola on Tuesday afternoon, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Asked about his release, Ford told WAFB-TV, “It feels good; my mind is going in all kind of directions. It feels good.”

Ford told the outlet he harbors some resentment at being wrongly jailed: “Yeah, cause I’ve been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do…I can’t go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40, stuff like that,” he added…

Gary Clements, one of Ford’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera that the new information was a confession from another suspect in Rozeman’s murder.

“We are very pleased to see Glenn Ford finally exonerated, and we are particularly grateful that the prosecution and the court moved ahead so decisively to set Mr. Ford free,” read a statement from Clements and Aaron Novod, another attorney for Ford from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana.

They said Ford’s trial had been “profoundly compromised by inexperienced counsel and by the unconstitutional suppression of evidence, including information from an informant.” They also cited what they said was a suppressed police report related to the time of the crime and evidence involving the murder weapon.

I hope Mr. Ford lives long enough to sue the crap out of the state of Louisiana. They’ve been caught in corrupt and crooked incarceration enough times that they actually passed a law limiting compensation to innocent prisoners after their release to $25K for each year wrongfully imprisoned.

Anyone think that the Sportsman’s Paradise will do anything about the sleazy coppers and prosecutors who railroaded Glenn Ford into prison?

I don’t think so, either.

ICD-10 Follies — Injured in an Opera House?


It is 208 days before the move to ICD-10 becomes a must-do. Lest the deadline slip your mind, MedPage Today is spotlighting some of those thousands of new codes that might just be getting a bit too granular.

Today’s code:

Y92.253: Opera house as the place of occurrence of the external cause (This is one gem from a laundry list of odd places where one can be hurt, including an art gallery.)

Other “Follies”

X52: Prolonged stay in weightless environment

V98.2XXA: Accident to, on, or involving ice yacht, initial encounter

W30.3XXA: Contact with grain storage elevator, initial encounter

W21.04: Struck by golf ball

W56.21xD: Bitten by orca, subsequent encounter

Z62.891: Sibling rivalry

V97.33XD: Sucked into jet engine, subsequent encounter

W61.92: Struck by other birds

Z63.1: Problems in relationship with in-laws

W45.8XXA: Other foreign body or object entering through skin, initial encounter

V52.2XXA: Person on outside of pick-up truck or van injured in collision with two- or three-wheeled motor vehicle in nontraffic accident, initial encounter

V00.32: Snow-ski accident

X92.0: Assault by drowning and submersion while in bathtub

W00.1: Fall from stairs and steps due to ice and snow

Sit back, my friends and reflect upon how much of America’s modern legislative system exists only to provide full employment for lawyers. Not the best ones, either.