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!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oil Field Remediation in Texas

If you think the problems we have here in Martha getting Ashland Oil to clean up their radioactive mess are unique, you're wrong.  Check out how ExxonMobil does oil field remediation in Texas... with a can of spray paint!  A radioactive tank battery was marked "NORM Containing Equipment."  Then this marking was spray painted over so now it's not a problem anymore.  Never mind that there is still radioactive material in that tank battery.

Now Ashland would have (and did, just check out the video above: "Martha Reclamation Program: Dump and Run") just dumped the contents of those tank batteries into a pit and covered it up with dirt.  Either way the radiation is still there, well, radiating.  Anyone other than state regulators think this is OK?

Hat tip: Mike Holmstrom

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kentucky Court of Appeals: Let Them Eat Cake!

During one of the famines in France during the reign of King Louis XVI, it was claimed that when Queen Marie-Antoinette heard that the people were suffering due to bread shortages she was so detached from reality that she said, “Let them eat cake.”  Well, reality bit hard when the King and Queen later had their heads lopped off by an angry mob.

The American legal system seems to be a bit detached from reality right now.  Lawyers and judges settle common-sense cases with arcane legal mumbo-jumbo, you know, the “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” type stuff.  This may challenge their intellects and help build their careers but the relevance is lost on the rest of us when it results in warped justice.

These Ashland Oil lawsuits are full of examples of this type of legal nonsense.  For example, this business about a five year limit on filing for damages if someone poisons your well.  Here’s basically how it played out for Woodie Cantrell in court:

Woodie:           I’m suing Ashland Oil for poisoning my well with radioactive radium.
Ashland:           Yes, we admit we enhanced your well water with radium and are sorry you are not pleased.  However, you can’t sue us.  That was more than five years ago.  The state of Kentucky says you can’t wait more than five years to sue someone for poisoning your well.
Woodie:           I didn’t know my well was poisoned until now.
Ashland:           Sure you did.  You complained about salty taste, therefore you knew.
Woodie:           Wait a minute.  My water may have been a bit salty, but I didn’t know it was radioactive.
Court:               Ashland is right, Woodie.  It’s about when you knew that you had been wronged, not about when you knew the wrong was actionable in court.
Woodie:           Hold on.  It’s one thing to have salty water.  It’s another to have radioactive water.
Court:               Sorry Woodie.  It’s not about whether your water is salty or glows in the dark.  It’s all about when you knew Ashland had done you wrong.  And that was more than five years ago, Woodie.  So too bad.
Woodie:           So now I’m stuck with radioactive well water and Ashland won’t clean it up.  What can my family do if they can’t use our well?
Court:               Let them eat cake!

Ashland, clean up your mess!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

EPA Has New Drilling Tip Line

Everyone around here should know that the EPA has set up a new tip line for anyone who wants to report suspicious activity related to oil and gas development and production.  You know, things like:
·        Dumping produced water into creeks;
·        Burying radioactive sludge in un-lined pits;
·        Leaving radioactive pipes lying around; or
·        The double whammy: dumping radioactive pits into radioactive creeks.

The EPA phone number is 1-877-919-4EPA and it’s free.  You can also e-mail them at: and they have a US Mail address at their website if you want to make sure your tip is in writing.  This EPA tip line may be a bit late for Martha, but some of us may have drilling for deep gas happening on other properties and this might help with any problems.

(Hat tip: Amy Mall at NRDC)