Written by John Plestina
This unpermitted waste dump near Bainville continues to operate according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. (Submitted photo)
The state of Montana is seeking environmental compliance by a Louisiana company that operates a Bakken oilfield waste dump near Bainville that is suspected to be a radioactive site. Non-compliance could mean shuttering the facility.
The Department of Environmental Quality recently sent a letter to Dual Trucking and Transport, of Houma, La., seeking compliance that includes permitting.
DEQ Enforcement Division administrator John Arrigo said the state regulatory agency first received complaints about the facility during April, May and June 2012.
DEQ recommended that Dual Transport halt operations in September 2012 until the company obtained a permit. DEQ also told Dual to hire a qualified consultant to develop a cleanup plan.
The company later began the permit process, but then declined state requests for further information, later informing DEQ the company was no longer processing oilfield waste and didn’t need a permit.
“We sent them a deficiency in November and they have not replied to that, so the application is not completed and we cannot issue a license,” Arrigo said.
Arrigo said Monday, April 28, that he believed the facility was continuing to operate.
He said Dual Transport’s attorney sent DEQ a letter alleging that the company is no longer processing solid waste and does not need a license.
“On April 11, an inspector visited and they were operating and cleaning up,” he said.
“[Dual] told us they are removing contaminated soil and disposing of it in Canada,” Arrigo said and added that the DEQ was not informed of where in Canada.
He said oil and gas exploration materials are exempt from federal requirements that require placards on trucks. He said he did not know what Canadian requirements are.
“If they don’t voluntarily shut down, they are in violation,” Arrigo said.
The DEQ cannot go in and close the facility without court approval.
“We have to go to court and have a judge issue an injunction,” Arrigo said.
“If we can allege a threat to the environment, the chances of shutting them down are better,” he said.
Waste that is classified as NORM is slightly radioactive, containing naturally occurring radioactive material. Oilfield waste contains radon, which is a gas. The other radioactive substance is radium, a solid. Both give off radioactive particles.
North Dakota produces the majority of oil field waste in the region, but lacks a radioactive waste facility.
Montana allows higher levels of radioactive waste than North Dakota.
Four Montana waste handlers have applied for permits, including one landfill near Glendive that is already operational.
Arrigo also expressed concern that the site is in close proximity to a wetlands that could be threatened by storm water runoff and within a few hundred yards of a residential development.
Arrigo said he did not know if the waste comes from drilling operations in Montana or if it is generated in North Dakota. He acknowledged that the majority of Bakken drilling is on the North Dakota side of the border.
“We don’t know what they are doing. We don’t know what they are considering clean. We don’t know what they are reburying,” Arrigo said. “We need to pin down the facts and have them stop until it is assessed.”