By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The spillover costs of a booming oil bonanza seem to be bubbling up in North Dakota. History has shown when the race to acquire or control a new, lucrative product occurs, often safety, or environmental concerns lessen in importance, hazardous shortcuts are taken and laws sometimes ignored.
Officials in North Dakota reportedly discovered an unregistered radioactive waste dumpsite and another that reportedly had twice the material as was previously reported to a Canadian remediation company contracted for waste removal. Moreover, there have been several accounts of radioactive material being discarded as litter.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, radionuclides are often present in petroleum extraction. Normally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) often include isotopes of Uranium, Thorium, and Radium (along with their decay products) as well as Lead-210. These elements have been known since the 1930’s and were in fact used as tracers to locate oil deposits, but it wasn’t until the mid 1980’s that the significance of these waste products were fully recognized and addressed. But it seems some of the regulatory mandates are being ignored, or in some cases inadequate to mediate hazardous practices of the some in the petroleum industry in North Dakota. Surprisingly federal regulation in this area is lacking.
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