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New waste treatment facility for radioactive material under construction west of Killdeer

KILLDEER -- Dunn County is expected to see a new waste treatment facility that can handle radioactive material become operational in February.

Construction is underway on the Horizon-Olson Solids Processing Facility No. 3 about nine miles west of Killdeer. The project is overseen by Minnesota-based Horizon-Olson LLC, a business that manages waste in the oil field.

The facility will handle waste generated by oil extraction, some of which will be naturally occurring radioactive materials, also known as TENORM. Once treated, the waste will then be sent to appropriate receptacles and storage facilities elsewhere.

Horizon-Olson chief operating officer George Tingo explained that companies such as his were an integral part of the oil industry.

“We’re an important part of the chain, and we’re a needed part of the chain,” he said.

The facility, which Tingo would only say costs “multiple millions” of dollars due to competitive reasons, will take up around 2 ½ acres and includes storage tanks and an operations building. He said the company is currently seeking a permit to install an office building on the premises.

“It will look very much like a saltwater disposal (facility),” Tingo said.

In fact, he said it sits a mile away from such a disposal facility that Horizon-Olson operates.

Tingo said the facility will typically receive waste that builds up on the bottom of crude storage tanks at well sites, which periodically has to be cleaned out to maintain maximum capacity. It would also receive material from spills, oil rigs and other loose liquids.

He explained that this material is whirled through a centrifuge, which separates the water and oil from solids. The solids are then taken to respective disposal centers within and beyond the state, while the water will be taken to saltwater disposal centers and the oil has the option of being sold.

The whole process, Tingo said, is relatively simple.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said.

Tingo also stressed that all materials treated would have “only very temporary storage” at the facility, where a container would collect the solid material until full and then be hauled away.

The facility will initially be manned by four employees, he said, and the site will be monitored 24/7.

Tingo said his company hadn’t calculated yet what the tax benefit of the facility would be to the community, but he said it was expected to be “relatively significant.”

Tingo said Horizon-Olson applied multiple times for a permit for the facility from the North Dakota Industrial Commission with the Department of Mineral Resources beginning in 2014 due to Dunn County twice requesting the site be moved. During this time, he said multiple public hearings were held on it.

The project finally received county approval in June 2015. Horizon-Olson is awaiting approval of a radioactive materials license from the North Dakota Department of Health.

Tingo said his company has had to jump through many hoops to comply with standards laid out by the Department of Health, especially those dealing with radioactive materials. But he said it didn’t mind if it meant creating an impeccable safety net.

“We don’t mind meeting them because it provides a safe environment for everybody,” he said.

Horizon-Olson will submit at least $525,000 in bonds to the Department of Health for future reclamation of the site, he said.

Tingo said this is the first such facility Horizon-Olson has built in North Dakota, though it oversees multiple wastewater facilities in the state. He said the company is looking at the possibility of introducing more in the future, but its focus now is to get this facility up and running.

In comparison to other companies in the oilfield that might cut corners to make ends, Tingo described his as a “damn good operation” that strives to do things safely and correctly.

“I can tell you we try to uphold a reputation in the oil field that we live,” he said.

Tingo emphasized that waste management was an important part of the supply chain in the oil industry, and that businesses such as his were directly affected by its health.

“Just like everyone else, we live and die on the industry,” he said.

Calls to Dunn County community leaders regarding the impact of the treatment facility on the area were not immediately answered Tuesday.