Landfills in Colorado have begun to fill their space with low-level radioactive substances from oil and gas activities, state health officials have said, according to the local news site the Daily Camera.
After a series of meetings with local officials, state authorities have concluded that unknown amounts of radioactive material have been stored at landfills throughout the state. Local authorities are currently trying to prohibit the practice altogether by strengthening their oversight mechanisms.
"There is some of it that is just going to solid waste landfills…It is probably, mostly, staying in state," the state health agency’s director Gary Baughman said during the Wednesday meeting.
So far, no “imminent” threats to public health have been detected, though landfill operators will continue to monitor water flowing out of the fills for radioactive qualities.
Technologically advanced naturally occurring radioactive materials, or TENORM, have been a concern for health officials for a while now, especially in cases of improperly disposed materials from the fossil fuel industry. An accumulation of TENORM could cause cancer-causing exposure to the public and the environment.
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“It is in the industry's best interest to mitigate long-term risks. And it is in the public's best interest. This radiation lasts for a long time,” Jane Witheridge, a project manager for a special TENORM disposal plant in Pawnee, said. "If we don't treat it differently from municipal solid waste, we would not be serving either the industry or the environment as it should be in Colorado. This is being done in North Dakota. It is being done in Texas.”
The 15 million-ton facility still will not be enough to dispose of all the TENORM produced by Colorado’s booming oil and gas sector. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) denies that the TENORM has been destructive so far, though it continues to monitor the issue, an official statement read.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…