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.