WILLISTON, N.D. — The Williams County Commission is set to decide Tuesday, Nov. 19, whether to allow a landfill north of Williston to accept radioactive oilfield waste.
Secure Energy Services needs both county and state approval to take in Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material at its 13-Mile Landfill. TENORM forms when materials like soil, water and rocks — with low levels of radiation that occur naturally — are brought to the earth's surface during oil production and concentrated in items such as filter socks or scale that forms in well pipes.
The company needs to obtain an amendment to the landfill's conditional use permit granted by the county in order to accept TENORM. In a 4-3 vote at a meeting last month, Williams County's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the full commission approve the amendment, county spokeswoman Lindsey Harriman said.
The facility's proposal to accept TENORM has prompted a lot of questions and concerns from some Williams County residents. The company maintains that the landfill would operate safely within "stringent" regulations.
If the five-member county commission grants permission at its meeting Tuesday, the landfill would next need both a radioactive materials license and a solid waste permit from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. Solid Waste Program Manager Diana Trussell said authorization from the state hinges on the county's decision, as the department cannot issue a solid waste permit if the facility does not first receive county approval.
Assuming Williams County OKs the facility on Tuesday, Trussell said, the department aims to finish its review of public comments and make a decision on the state permits by the beginning of 2020.
No landfills in North Dakota have been permitted to accept TENORM under a rule change that took effect in 2016 allowing such facilities to take in the waste with radiation levels up to 50 picocuries per gram. TENORM is instead trucked to landfills in other states that allow for its disposal.