On August 18, 2017, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) formally proposed regulations providing additional requirements for the management of technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) waste, making Montana the latest state to propose such regulations. The proposed regulations come on the heels of its neighbor, North Dakota, adopting new rules with TENORM disposal limits, which may have prompted Montana to act.

In preparing its proposed regulations, Montana DEQ relied on two detailed studies regarding oil and gas production wastes that had been recently conducted:  a North Dakota study conducted by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and a Pennsylvania study conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, both of which found that landfilling of waste from the oil and gas industry poses minimal risk to workers and the public.  MDEQ’s proposed TENORM regulations are consistent with North Dakota’s (and ANL’s recommendations), in that they both set TENORM disposal limits at 50 pCi/gm for Ra-226 and Ra-228. MDEQ is also requiring that the TENORM concentration of waste in a landfill not exceed the dose limit of 100 mrem/y at the boundary of the active disposal unit based on the results of MDEQ-approved site-specific modeling.  And, in what is becoming the norm for state TENORM regulations, MDEQ is also requiring generators to sample and characterize the TENORM waste prior to disposal and landfill owners and operators to screen every incoming load for radiation concentrations.

MDEQ is holding public hearings on the proposed regulations on September 7th in Helena and on September 20th in Sidney. Be sure to check back here at Environmental Law Next for additional developments as more states propose these regulations.

The Michigan legislature recently introduced Senate Bill 503 to tighten up Michigan’s existing disposal guidelines pertaining to TENORM or Technologically Enhanced, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material. Michigan has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to TENORM regulation.  Michigan’s current TENORM disposal guidelines were established in 1996.  They provide that the disposal of Radium-226 contaminated materials, from any source, containing a concentration not exceeding 50 pCi/g can be accepted without regard to radioacitvity in a Type I (hazardous waste) or Type II (municipal solid waste) landfill.  At the time, Michigan was the only state that explicitly allowed radium-bearing wastes to be disposed of in municipal, nonhazardous waste landfills.

Michigan’s TENORM regulations were assessed by the Argonne National Laboratory in a study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and American Petroleum Institute in 1999.  The Argonne study concluded that the Michigan disposal guidelines of 50 pCi/g of Radium-226 would not adversely impact human health or the environment, provided the TENORM wastes were placed deeper than approximately 10 feet below the landfill cap.

In 2014-2015, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) assembled a panel of experts to review Michigan’s TENORM disposal guidelines to determine if they sufficiently protect the public health and the environment.  The TENORM Disposal Advisory Panel reviewed the 1999 Argonne study, current federal and state regulatory standards, the nature of TENORM and how it decays over time, and the design and operation of modern landfills.  Based on its study, the Panel agreed that the disposal limit was safe, but made several recommendations for MDEQ in a White Paper, including requiring landfills that accept TENORM waste to restrict its placement to at least 10 feet below the landfill cap, restrict the total volume placed annually to limit worker exposure and monitor leachate and ground water monitoring wells.

Senate Bill 503 implements many of the recommendations in the White Paper and provides the following:

  • The disposal in a landfill of TENORM with a concentration of Radium-226, Radium-228 or a combination thereof over 50 pCi/g is prohibited.
  • TENORM shall be deposited at least 10 feet below the landfill cap and be “kept separate from other waste in the landfill.”
  • The landfill shall not dispose of more than 2,000 cubic meters of TENORM per year.
  • Prior to delivering TENORM to a landfill for disposal, generators shall test the TENORM for Radium-226 and Radium-228 and provide the results, as well as the proposed date of delivery and the name and address of the landfill, to the State.
  • The landfill is required to independently test all waste received by the landfill for Radium-226 and Radium-228.
  • The landfill is also required to test the landfill leachate and groundwater for Radium-226 and Radium-228.

Senate Bill 503 was introduced on July 12, 2017 and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

Filling in a gap in its regulations, Kentucky proposes new regulations for technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials or TENORM. The regulations were in response to concerns about the management of radioactive materials from oil and gas production.  A public hearing is to be held on the proposed regulations on June 21, 2017.

The Regulations can be found here.

We will be following these regulations and providing updates here on Environmental Law Next as they progress.