North Dakota Cleans Up Radioactive Waste

Mar 13, 2015

Radioactive waste can be a by-product of drilling for oil.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Radioactive waste is a common by-product of oil and gas drilling. On Friday, workers in North Dakota were cleaning up a pile of illegally dumped waste filters.  

Up to 100 filter socks were found in Williston, a North Dakota oil and gas boomtown in the western part of the state. Filter socks are the nets that strain out the sludge, which is sometimes radioactive, that is a by-product of oil production.  Dale Patrick from North Dakota’s Department of Public Health said that although the dumping was illegal, there was little threat to the public. 

"The real hazard would be if this stuff would become dry and airborne and most of these socks are pretty wet because they have oil constituents in them," Patrick said.

Regulation prohibits North Dakota landfills from accepting anything but minuscule amounts of radiation. Wyoming has similar guidelines. So North Dakota's waste is usually dumped in states like Colorado, which has a much higher allowed radioactive limit, as well as and Idaho.