Montana Environmental Council meeting could upend Montana's 50 picocurie limit on TENORM wastes
Monday, May 25, 2020

The future of rules governing the disposal of radioactive wastes in Montana, a majority of which come from North Dakota's oilfields, is hanging in the balance, a Sidney official says, and the citizenry's attention is urgently needed to ensure the state follows science, rather than superstition. 

Sidney attorney Tom Halvorson is raising the alarm bell over recent actions taken by the Environmental Quality Council, which he said is threatening to upend six years of citizens' work to develop sensible, science-based regulations to govern the disposal of TENORM.

The council, at a recent meeting, voted 10 to 6 to informally object to DEQ-proposed rules that would have set 50 picocuries as the limit for TENORM wastes disposal in the state.

The rules were developed after numerous public hearings to gather comments, as well as the work of a stakeholder group that included Richland County Commissioner Duane Mitchell, who advocated for standards consistent with neighboring states. 

"In North Dakota, the Department of Health paid I think it was $182,000 to Argonne Laboratories for a study of TENORM, with recommendations to the Department of Health on the levels that should be accepted in North Dakota," Halvorson pointed out.

The level Argonne arrived at was 51.6 picocuries, and their recommendation was to set the limit just under that, at 50 picocuries.

Montana also hired a different, independent firm to conduct its own study, which also came up with the same safety recommendation of 50 picocuries.

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