April 18, 2013

Dumping opponents gather in New Town

Minding waste
Dumping opponents gather in New Town
By Jerry W. Kram

The oil boom that started in 2006 has brought many things to western North Dakota. It has brought people to towns that were fading away and money into an economy that was barely holding its own. But this growth has also brought challenges of its own as the influx of people strains housing, roads, law enforcement and public infrastructure to the limit.
One of those challenges is that people, business and the oil industry itself generates a lot of waste, and that waste has to go somewhere. Of particular concern to a group of about 35 activists that gathered in New Town on Saturday is the material that is brought up from thousands of feet underground in the drilling and fracking process.
Former journalist Darrell Dorgan chaired the meeting of what is tentatively called the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition. The coalition, which is still in the process of being organized, brings together concerned citizens from across western North Dakota, including Washburn, Underwood, Killdeer, New Town, Parshall, White Shield, Stanley, Dickinson, Bismarck and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Dorgan said one thing the diverse group had in common was a concern about Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, or NORM. North Dakota has unusually high levels of NORM, which is why radon testing is suggested for homes in the state. NORM is even more concentrated in the thousands of feet of rock that make up the Williston Basin, including the oil-rich Bakken Formation. Some of the material brought up during the drilling process exceeds the state standard for disposal in regular landfills, which is 5 picocuries.
 


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