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North Dakota's first potential TENORM facility lists Williston address

The state has opened a public comment period for what could be the state’s first landfill licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste that accumulates during oil and gas production.

Secure Energy Services is requesting the permit for its 13-Mile Landfill, which lists an address in Williston on its permit application materials.

Naturally occurring radioactive materials are part of North Dakota’s shale layers, which also include layers that house oil and gas. NORM comes up as solid wastes in varying amounts whenever crude oil and natural gas are extracted. This materials settles out into tank bottoms as a kind of sludge that must be removed before Bakken light sweet crude can be sent to market.

Processing these wastes concentrates them a little more than they were, causing them to become “technologically enhanced.” Hence the waste is referred to as TENORM.

North Dakota has not had any landfills for this material. Most of it has been going across the state line to facilities in northeastern Montana.

In 2016, the North Dakota Department of Health decided to raise the threshold for radioactive materials in landfills to 50 picocuries per gram. The previous limit was 5. The new level was based on the recommended maximum exposure levels for worker safety at facilities that handle TENORM.

A few entities, including Secure Energy, applied for the new radioactive materials permits in 2016, but none were approved. Secure Energy actually submitted their proposal three times before it was accepted.

Solid Waste Program Manager Diana Trussell said it is not unusual for the process to take time, and require multiple submissions.

“We want to get it right before we go out there with it and make sure the site is truly ready to accept what they are proposing to do,” she said.

Among the restrictions, Secure Energy will not be allowed to accept more than 25,000 tons of TENORM material in any given year.

The wastes must be tested prior to being accepted, to verify that they are below the required threshold. These wastes are kept in a holding area while the test is conducted. If the material is higher than allowed, the company that brought it must remove it and then take it to an approved landfill for such wastes out of state.

Another key point in the Secure Energy permit is proper construction of pits for the TENORM. The pits must include appropriate liners to prevent the material from moving off-site.

The company will also be required to monitor the air upwind and downwind of the facility as well as groundwater. The leachate from the pits must be collected and tested at least quarterly as well.

The state can also, at any time, require additional monitoring if needed.

The company must have a dust control plan, and the pits must be covered at least once a day by a minimum of 1 foot of non-TENORM waste.

When the pit is full, its final cover must measure at least 10 foot from the surface of the topsoil. The top three feet of this required cover includes an 18-inch clay liner at least 3 feet below the surface that has been compacted appropriately to prevent penetration by water. If the slope is greater than 15 percent, that liner must be 5 foot down instead of 3. Above the liner, a clay-rich layer is required for the root zone, and above that, there must be at least 6 inches of topsoil to establish native grasses.

Grenora hot spot for mosquitoes in Williams County

The mosquito hotspot in Williams County right now is Grenora. The numbers of Culex Tarsalis, a West Nile carrier, have been showing up there in traps in large enough numbers to trigger spraying at least a couple of times a week for the past several weeks.

A recent West Nile positive announced in Grenora was actually a field test conducted by Vector Control. Field tests at that location are not confirmed by the state lab, which has a more accurate test.

Mosquito prevention measures should be taken  throughout the mosquito season, health officials say. Even when numbers are low, it only takes one infected mosquito to bite someone and potentially cause an illness.

The state reported its first West Nile virus case in McHenry County. That case did not result in hospitalization.

While West Nile virus does not cause symptoms for many people, it can lead to serious complications and even death for some.

“There is risk of contracting WNV anytime mosquitoes are active, so it is important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites,” said Evan Bischoff, West Nile Virus surveillance coordinator.

This is the second year Grenora was included in Williston Vector Control’s district program, according to Ben Redekopp. He, along with James Taverna, are acting as interim directors of the Vector Control program until its new director arrives Aug. 19.

While Grenora mosquito numbers this year are higher than last year, it’s hard to pinpoint any particular trends, Reddekopp said, given that it’s only the second year the community has been in the program. He believes that treatment facilities in Divide County could be a contributing factor to the number of mosquitoes there, as well as some areas across the border in Montana.

Redekopp said they are trying a little bit of ground fogging in the community, to see if that gives better mosquito control.

Overall, across Vector Control’s service areas, mosquito numbers are up a little bit from last year, but they are still well below the peak years of 2008 and 2009, when mosquitoes numbered in six figures in trap counts.

“This year, for a month, maybe we’ll get 10,000,” Reddekopp said.

Spraying in Williston has also been occurring once or twice week as a result of trap counts.

Among contributing factors to elevated numbers in the Williston area is a later than usual rise of flood waters, which also hung around longer than usual.

That has left many pockets of standing water, while at the same time, temperatures are getting warmer as the summer progresses. These conditions are ripe for a rise in the population of C. tarsalis.

Mosquitoes are caught and surveyed in traps on a regular basis by Vector Control’s summer staff in the areas covered by the district. That includes Ray, Grenora, Carolville, Williston, and a strip of territory along U.S. 85 in McKenzie County. Any West Nile mosquitoes found in the traps from those areas are field tested for West Nile virus. Only those along U.S. 85 are sent to the state for confirmation.

So far, other than the field test in Grenora, all other field tests and state confirming tests have been negative for West Nile. The field test in Grenora was a small sample size of 50 mosquitoes or less.

Williston State College students win trip to cybersecurity conference

Two Williston State College students spent last week in Bossier City, Louisiana at the 2019 Community College Cyber Summit.

Brandy and Justin Howell attended the conference — the only national academic conference focused on cybersecurity education at community colleges — after winning an all-expense-paid trip.

The husband and wife duo, who are students of Ken Quamme, professor of Information Technology at WSC, first learned of the conference opportunity in April.

“I received an email about student funding available thanks to an NSF grant for the 3CS,” explained Quamme. “I shared this email with all of my students, but Brandy and Justin stood out in my mind.”

On June 6, the Howells received emails congratulating them on being selected to receive all-expenses paid trips to attend 3CS 2019 from July 30 through Aug. 1.

“I am extremely excited to be offered this amazing opportunity,” said Brandy Howell. “This will open many amazing doors for my future and Justin’s. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to connect with others in the cybersecurity field.”

Held at Bossier Parish Community College, the conference includes a Job Fair and Career Exploration component. Students will have the opportunity to speak with employers from government, business, and industry sectors and learn about job and internship opportunities.

Conference participants include college faculty, administrators, and students, as well as employers, government, and industry.

The Howells hope to bring back knowledge of what future employers are looking for in graduating students and hope to make their own connections with prospective employers for future employment after graduating from WSC.

The duo has also excelled in the Cyber FastTrack program, a free online cybersecurity program for college students and graduates organized by the SANS Institute, the largest training organization for cybersecurity professionals in the world.

“Taking IT classes from Ken Quamme has been a life changing experience,” emphasized Brandy. “There are so many jobs in the industry and as we become more reliant on technology, more and more jobs become available. The WSC IT program opens many doors for students in all different parts of the technology field as long as you put your mind to it.”

The conference is organized and produced by the National CyberWatch Center, National Resource Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, CyberWatch West, and Broadening Advanced Technological Education Connections, which are all funded by the National Science Foundation.

District 1 announces donors to school project

A planned school expansion project in Williston Public School District No. 1 has gotten its first donations, the Williston Coyote Foundation announced Monday, Aug. 5.

Tim and Jill Kleven of Williston have become the first Platinum sponsors of the Innovation Academy. The couple are former local business owners, and Jill Kleven is a member of the Coyote Foundation board. She and the couple’s three children are all Williston High School graduates, and the couple have a granddaughter set to start kindergarten at Lewis and Clark Elementary in the fall.

In a news release, the foundation wrote that the Klevens hope their donation to the renovation of the Hagan pool into a personalized learning environment for students in grades five through eight as an investment in the future of their grandkids and as a way of giving back to their community.

Joanna Baltes, District 1 school board president, said Platinum sponsors agree to donate between $100,000 and $1 million to the project, which is estimated to cost about $12 million. Baltes said she is looking forward to getting the project underway.

“Thanks to people like the Klevens we will be able to utilize existing infrastructure, to increase capacity and to encourage 21st Century learning for the students in our district who would benefit from student-centered learning,” Baltes said. “To use a swimming analogy, their donation has gotten us off the starting blocks.”

Donations for the Innovation Academy can be made through the Williston Coyote Foundation, a nonprofit organized, registered as a 501©(3) through the IRS. Donations can be mailed to the Foundation, dropped off at the District Office, or made online at http://willistoncoyotefoundation.com/. More information on the project can be found at academy.willistonschools.org

Drainage washout prompts City of Williston to declare project an emergency

The City Commission declared a drainage project along 26th Street an emergency, due to excessive amounts of rain early in July.

In a special meeting on Monday, August 5, the commission heard from City Engineer David Wicke, who explained the drainage problem. According to Wicke, the Harvest Hill Development stormwater drainage system was damaged during a heavy storm on July 9.

That storm, Wicke said, dropped 3.12 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, which equated to roughly a 25-year event, meaning there was a four percent chance of such an occurrence. That excess of water created a washout along the drain’s outlet, prompting Wicke to approach the commission to declare it an emergency.

In a memo to the commission, Wicke stated that a project to rehabilitate the washout area and make improvements to the storm water discharge is currently under design by Alliance Consulting. In order to expedite the project’s schedule and have the work completed as quickly as possible, Wicke said that the City could declare the project an emergency, allowing city engineers to pre-order construction materials to have on hand once a qualified contractor is selected to complete the work. An emergency declaration would allow the City to bypass the normal bidding process, Wicke stated in the memo.

The damage caused from the washout was significant, resulting in the loss of three sections of pipe and carving out a large section of land along the coulee south of 26th Street and west of 32nd Avenue West. Wicke said the drainage system was designed for a five-year storm, and the July 9 event simply exceeded the drainage systems capacity.

The washout has now worked its way north along the pipe towards 26th Street, and Wicke said another rain event like that in July would continue the washout and compromise the street itself.

At Monday’s meeting, Wicke told the commission that estimated costs for construction materials was around $300,000, and that city engineers would seek bids from at least three contractors to complete the work. Materials would take between six to eight weeks to order, Wicke said, giving time to award the project to qualified contractor.

Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk made the motion to approve the emergency declaration, which was seconded by Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl. The motion passed unanimously.

Also on the agenda for the special meeting, Airport Director Anthony Dudas presented a memo seeking approval for three bid schedules which involve creating signage to direct people to the new airport site. The three schedules are for Department of Transportation signage that will direct people to the airport using standard green D.O.T. signage places at certain locations; On-site wayfinding signage to help airport visitors navigate to specific areas, such as parking and delivery; and an airport monument sign to be constructed at the entrance of the road to the commercial terminal.

Bekkedahl made a motion to approve the proposal, with a second from Cymbaluk. The motion was passed unanimously.