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ND sees more options for oil field waste disposal

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s oil industry may soon have more options for disposing of radioactive waste.

About 100,000 tons of radioactive oil field waste is produced in the state each year. Before a slurry well started operating near Watford City in April, all of that waste was trucked to other states for disposal in landfills, or in rare cases, disposed of illegally.

But the North Dakota Industrial Commission recently permitted another well in McKenzie County, and officials see potential for additional wells in the Bakken region. The newly approved well still needs to get a radioactive material license from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. It will be built north of Alexander by GMJS Services, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The radioactive waste comes from soil, water and rocks that naturally contain low levels of radiation underground. When those materials are brought to the earth’s surface during oil production, radiation can concentrate in filter socks used to strain oil field fluids, in sludge in storage tanks and in scale that forms in well pipes.

GMJS Services director Gary Woolsey said he hopes to have the new well operating in McKenzie County next summer. It will inject the slurry about 6,000 feet deep into the Inyan Kara, which is the same rock formation many wells target for the disposal of saltwater, a byproduct of oil production.

“This stuff is not coming back,” he said, adding that disposal down a well “is safer than anything else.”

State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said additional wells anticipated for Williams, Mountrail and Dunn counties would put the state in a situation where much of this waste could be dealt with safely and economically.

The GMJS well project has received complaints from a couple McKenzie County residents.

“I hope it works for them, but I’m just not very happy with where they’re locating it,” Tri Township Supervisor B.J. Lindvig said. “I think there are better places for these types of things. A very big concern is traffic and trucks, and we will probably be getting complaints.”