Martha Reclamation Program: Dump and Run

Toxic Soup: Ashland's Radioactive Sludge Pits

Toxic Soup: Radiation at Blaine Elementary School

Friday, February 26, 2010

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Thanks to Radioactive Waste Management Associates for posting the following in their web November 2009 web newsletter:

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

It’s magic! It’s amazing what a name means.  Change a waste disposal facility into a waste storage facility and Voila!  Waste gone!

The NORM waste facility, called by Ashland Oil contractors, the Martha Oil Field Storage Cell, holds oil field waste from the region around Martha, Kentucky.  The contaminated earth in the “temporary” landfill is from waste in oil fields.  Drilling produces radioactive and toxic chemical water that was dumped into unlined pits.  The contaminated earth was then centrally located in the Martha Oil Field storage cell, near Martha, Kentucky.  Now what?

A report by Auxier & Associates and funded by Ashland Oil purports to show that the waste is safe where it sits.  The supposed safety arises from two sleight-of-hands.  Auxier shows that the facility meets all applicable State of Kentucky regulations.  E.g., the total effective dose to a critical group is less than 25 millirems a year (mrem/yr).  To do that Auxier uses the Department of Energy software, RESRAD-OFFSITE.  That is, the dose due to someone residing off the property is less than 25 millirems per year.  So Auxier does not consider a person residing on the waste facility property.

And second, Auxier conveniently omits a Kentucky regulation about institutional control.  According to the regulation (902 KARE 100:022 Section 27(2)), “Institutional controls may not be relied upon for more than 100 years following transfer of control of the disposal site to the owner.”  So no fence.  No guards.  Maybe a little note in the title.

If a person lived on the “waste storage cell,” the radiation dose could be as high as 250 mrem per year to an adult, and 600 mrem a year for a 10-year old child, considerably higher than the 25 mrem/yr the regulatory max for a disposal facility.  Most of this dose comes from growing vegetables, fruits and grains in radium-contaminated earth.  Eat your vegetables, dear; it’s good for you.  And since radium-226 has a half-life of 1600 years, it will be around essentially forever.

It’s amazing the amount of magic wand-waving that’s required to get rid of Ashland’s radioactive waste.  Ashland’s legal magicians have waved wands in Kentucky courts, turning dangerous radiation spread around by Ashland’s business practices into a naturally-occurring curiosity that we shouldn’t worry about.

However, citizen outrage resulted in an attempt by Ashland and the state of Kentucky to remove some of the radioactive waste to a temporary storage facility for later disposal.  After a few years have gone by, Ashland again waves its magic wand to rename a waste disposal facility into a waste storage facility and make the problem disappear.  Now we don’t need to find a storage facility for this waste, it’s already in a storage facility.  Problem solved!

Ashland, clean up your mess!

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