Posted 6/26/19 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
The continued dumping of illegal oilfield waste at the McKenzie County Landfill took center stage at last week’s county commission meeting as Rick Schreiber, landfill manager, told the commissioners that for a second time a county landfill employee required medical care after suffering chemical exposure.
As the county landfill is only licensed to accept household waste, one has to wonder why barrels of unknown oilfield fluids, radioactive filter socks, as well as hazardous chemicals like fly ash, lye, sulfates, dry acids and bases have continued to find their way into garbage containers that are ultimately brought into the facility.
The answer, according to Schreiber, is simple. The people at the oilfield sites don’t care what they are throwing into the garbage containers. It can be common trash that is acceptable to be disposed of at the county landfill. Or it might be hazardous waste that needs to be taken to another facility that is licensed to take that kind of waste.
The problem continues as the companies contracted to haul the waste away from oilfield sites don’t know exactly what they are bringing into the landfill until they dump their load.
The solution to the problem isn’t simple when no company is willing to accept responsibility for this illegal practice or willing to exercise a little common sense.
While the county has imposed fines and tried to take action against the companies that are violating the rules and regulations, it is ultimately up to the North Dakota Department of Health to enforce the state’s rules governing the dumping of illegal waste into the county’s landfill.
And according to Schreiber, so far the Department of Health has completely failed in taking action against any of the violations that the county has reported.
In addition to county landfill employees being exposed to toxic chemicals and other hazardous waste, so is every person who comes into the landfill with a load of garbage.
The county has done virtually everything that it can to keep toxic and other hazardous waste out of the landfill. They’ve notified the oilfield companies that are generating the waste, as well as the contract haulers as to what is acceptable trash to be brought into the landfill. The county has imposed fines on the companies that they can identify that are violating the rules and regulations.
More importantly, they have reported each and every incident where the illegal dumping has violated state and federal regulations to the North Dakota Department of Health.
But yet, virtually every day, county landfill employees are subject to possible chemical exposure as they try to sort through every load from an oilfield site to determine whether or not it contains illegal material.
The county has done everything that it can to control and restrict oilfield waste from coming into the McKenzie County Landfill. It is now time for the Department of Health to step in and enforce their rules and regulations when they receive violation notices from the county.