W.Va. landfill barred from taking drilling sludge from Western Pa.

| Friday, May 30, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

Range Resources Corp. set off alarms this week with West Virginia regulators who learned from a Tribune-Review article that radioactive drilling waste rejected by a Washington County landfill ended up buried just over the border in the Mountain State.

“We wanted to know why waste rejected in Pennsylvania ended up in West Virginia,” said Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

West Virginia environmental officials on Wednesday rescinded a special-waste permit allowing Meadowfill Landfill, a facility owned by Waste Management in Bridgeport, to accept the waste.

Range Resources on Tuesday disposed of flowback sludge in two box containers that on March 1 tripped radioactivity monitors at Arden Landfill in Chartiers, another Waste Management facility.

“Meadowfill was told not to accept any more drilling waste until this issue is resolved,” Gillenwater said.

The West Virginia DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management is investigating, she said.

Range Resources was not asked to retrieve the sludge, company spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. The moratorium on Meadowfill's accepting drilling waste will not affect the Cecil-based company, he said.

“There are several disposal options,” Pitzarella said.

A Waste Management spokeswoman said the company tests all waste before disposal but investigated the sludge in question after West Virginia DEP representatives raised concerns. It “believes all the proper protocols were followed prior to disposal,” spokeswoman Lisa Kardell said.

Waste Management conducted a radiation survey of the area where the sludge was disposed, she said, noting that West Virginia does not require landfills to scan incoming waste for naturally occurring radioactivity.

“The results of our survey did not indicate any levels that would prohibit safe disposal in West Virginia or Pennsylvania,” Kardell said.

The radioactivity of the containers when they reached the Arden Landfill in March registered at 212 microrems, higher than the 150 microrems Pennsylvania allows in normal landfills, said John Poister, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The material posed no threat to residents or workers while stored in Washington County, Poister said.

Having radioactive material disposed in a landfill near her home concerns Bridgeport resident Anna Smucker, who lives less than 10 miles from Meadowfill.

“It was rejected by a Pennsylvania landfill and then was brought to one by my house,” Smucker said. “I'm afraid these landfills are getting filled to the brink and over.”

The West Virginia DEP is drafting rules to require landfills to monitor radioactivity levels in materials they accept, Gillenwater said. State lawmakers in 2013 passed legislation requiring West Virginia landfills to do so but gave them until July 1, 2015, to comply.

The DEP wants those requirements fast-tracked and will petition the secretary of State for an emergency rule as early as next month, Gillenwater said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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