Updated: N.D. shuts down handler of radioactive oilfield waste for violations in Killdeer
BISMARCK – The North Dakota Department of Health has ordered a company that handles radioactive oilfield waste to shut down its facility near Killdeer after state inspectors found several violations there earlier this month.
The emergency order issued Thursday alleges that Dyad Environmental LLC failed to properly store and track the disposal of the waste, which was primarily filter socks that collect naturally occurring radioactive material from oilfield byproducts, said Dave Glatt, the department’s environmental health chief.
Glatt said inspectors also weren’t able to find a qualified radiation safety officer on site or verify that employees were trained to handle the technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) as required by Dyad’s license issued by the Health Department in February.
“The immediate concern then is the safety of the workers, and so that was a big part of the order,” he said in a phone interview.
Jake McNair, CEO of Dyad’s North Dakota operations, said in an emailed statement Thursday evening that the compliance issues addressed in the state’s order received Thursday “were corrected within two days of inspection last week.”
In a follow-up email late Thursday night, McNair said the Killdeer facility “poses no known risk to worker health or safety” and that the company “has made every effort to be compliant and has an excellent and efficient process more protective of the environment than any current waste disposal practice.”
McNair said workers were adequately trained using a training syllabus and written exam that had been reviewed and approved by the Health Department. He said the state didn’t request training records from Dyad during the recent inspection, and at the time, the facility wasn’t operating so the company’s radiation safety officer wasn’t required to be there.
“Dyad is very concerned that the actions taken by the state were premature and have possibly damaged the reputation of the company. Nevertheless, Dyad will make every effort to be compliant to the letter of the law,” he said.
Dyad’s facility, north of Killdeer near the Medicine Hole Golf Course, accepts filter socks from oilfield companies and encases them in large blocks made of a ceramic-like material for shipment to disposal sites. If the level of radiation exceeds 5 picocuries per gram, the maximum allowed for disposal in North Dakota, the waste is shipped to out-of-state sites, primarily in Colorado, Idaho and Montana, Glatt said.
The Health Department also has been investigating piles of improperly disposed filter socks that have been discovered in several areas of western North Dakota in recent weeks.
At Dyad, the Health Department conducted two inspections in early April, though Glatt couldn’t recall the exact dates.
Asked why the facility wasn’t shut down immediately, he said, “We had to look at all the findings that we received from the inspection, compare them to the license requirements and then take a look at the severity of them individually and then also all together before we came to that conclusion.”
Inspectors found some of the waste blocks being stored outside the facility’s fenced-in area, Glatt said. The company has since moved them back inside, he said.
Blocks also were being stored on the bare ground instead of impermeable surfaces as required by the license, Glatt said.
“The leaching potential was minimal, but, you know, any precipitation, with time, that could be an issue,” he said.
McNair said not all of the ceramic cubes treated by Dyad contain TENORM.
“Many were inert and can be stored on the soil,” he said by email, adding that the blocks containing TENORM typically have concentrations of less than 5 picocuries per gram, rendering them non-hazardous and non-TENORM by state requirements.
McNair said Dyad is a new company that began processing TENORM less than 30 days after posting a $1.25 million bond and after spending two years obtaining appropriate permits and licenses. He said Dyad’s technology that stabilizes TENORM in ceramic blocks “is much safer than free disposal of TENORM,” adding, “Leaching does not occur with Dyad’s process.”
Dyad has invited the state to return to inspect its Killdeer operation, he said.
“We appreciate the state’s concern and hope that they intend to hold all companies in the state to the same standards as Dyad including those who continue to operate and handle TENORM with no license,” he said.
Glatt said the company also failed to post proper warning signs at the facility’s entrance, and its paperwork showing the origin of the waste and its final disposal site was incomplete.
Asked if any waste was unaccounted for, he said, “Not that we’re aware of. That’s part of our investigation, too.”
Dyad could face penalties of up to $10,000 per day, per violation, and possible license revocation, Glatt said.