BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota confirmed Thursday the discovery of a new radioactive dump of waste from oil drilling, and separately a company hired to clean up waste found in February at another location said it removed double the amount of radioactive material originally estimated to be there.
The Canadian company hired to clean up the largest dump found so far, located at an abandoned gas station in Noonan, also said that it suspects the soil at the site is contaminated and that samples were being analyzed.
The twin disclosures highlight a growing problem from North Dakota's booming oil development — illegal disposal of oil filter socks, which are tubular nets that strain liquids during the oil production process and contain low amounts of radioactive material. Health officials have said that radioactive filter socks increasingly are being found along roadsides, in abandoned buildings or in commercial trash bins — sometimes those of competing oil companies.
State Environmental Health Chief Dave Glatt said investigators are examining the new site north of Crosby — a town about five miles from the Canadian border — which was discovered late last week by Divide County Emergency Manager Jody Gunlock.
Gunlock said he found 15 garbage cans and about 25 bags full of the oil filter socks.
"So maybe one-fourth of what we found down in Noonan," Gunlock said, "But you know, it's still a significant amount and it's still an environmental problem."
Glatt said the former landowner is in prison on an unrelated charge and that the new owner is cooperating with officials. They believe the waste was dumped before the land was sold, but has been covered up by snow for months.
Gunlock, who grew up in Divide County and moved back in 2012 after serving in the military for 30 years, said the oil boom has changed his once quiet hometown for better and worse.
The population has increased and businesses are faring better than they have in the past, but roads are getting torn up and these new environmental problems increased drastically this winter, he said.
"Between brine being dumped on the roads, human waste being dumped in farm yards, and now these radioactive socks — oh my gosh, it's out of control."