Rejected waste taken to Idaho

July 11, 2013
Tara Kinsell/Observer-Reporter Multiple containers housing radioactive drilling waste were returned to this Morgan Township site in November.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed that containers holding radioactive drill cuttings that were rejected in April by the Max Environmental Technologies disposal site in South Huntingdon Township have been transported to Idaho for disposal.

“Rice Energy has informed us that they have removed the roll-off boxes containing the TENORM material,” said John Poister, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “They have provided us documentation that the material was sent to a U.S. Ecology site in Idaho for proper disposal.” TENORM is an acronym for technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material. It occurs when the levels of radioactivity that are present naturally are increased by human activities.

The Rice Energy truck carrying the drill cuttings from a Center Township well site set off the radiation warning system on April 19 while entering Max Environmental. The truck was immediately quarantined and tested to determine what type of radiation it contained, according to Poister. It was determined that the drill cuttings contained Radium 226 at a level of 96 microrem (mrem). Microrem is the measure of the biological effect of absorbed radiation.

“The standard in Pennsylvania is 10 above background,” said Poister. “Nintety-six is not a tremendously high reading but it is high enough that it is in that middle area. It is definitely not something we could accept in the Pennsylvania landfills in this area. Max followed the procedure perfectly. They drove to the quarantine area and scanned for the source.”

Background radiation refers to the typical amount of naturally occurring radiation one encounters in everyday life. In the natural environment, radium occurs at very low levels in virtually all rock, soil, water, plants, and animals, according to the Pa. DEP.

When Max Environmental rejected the load it was returned to the well pad in Greene County until Rice could locate a facility that accepts this level of radioactive material.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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