This past week's discovery of what could be the largest illegal dumping of radioactive oil filter socks in an abandoned building in Noonan should result in criminal prosecution, fines and jail time for those responsible.
But will that happen?
Hundreds of the filters, which are used to strain liquids during the production of oil, were found in a building in Noonan, a small town of about 200 residents. No one apparently knows how the filters got there, or how long they have been there. The filters cannot legally be disposed of in North?Dakota; they must be hauled to approved waste facilities in other states, including Montana, Colorado and Idaho.
It's disturbing, to say the least, that no one, including state regulatory agencies, knows how the materials made their way into the building. It should anger everyone in the state and especially those supposedly in charge of regulating the oil industry that those responsible no matter which company employs them can have such a callous disregard for the residents of North Dakota.
Incidents such as this only fuel the anger of those residents who are already fed up with changes brought about to the state by the sudden growth of the oil industry. The level of mistrust among residents of Noonan and other towns in North Dakota has no doubt grown considerably in the past few days, and rightly so.
State regulatory officials have a duty to insure that North Dakota's laws are being followed, especially when it concerns the proper disposal of radioactive materials. The lack of oversight in this and other cases is simply shocking, and those charged with regulating such hazardous material should be embarrassed. The state must find and properly punish those responsible, and that punishment can't simply be a financial slap on the wrist.
The state Health Department recently announced that new rules are being written to track oil field waste, with a draft of the regulations available for public review in June. That's already years too late. State regulators must act quickly so incidents like this don't happen again.