The Western Dakota Energy Association will consider taking a hand in helping Oil Patch counties to craft a unified approach to TENORM.
The decision was made at a board meeting of the non-profit association following a daylong roundtable on roads. The annual roundtable included a breakout session on TENORM that was requested recently by Williams County.
During the breakout session, David Montgomery, Williams County Commission chairman, said he asked for the meeting because the matter has regional implications, and he felt perhaps no one county should take a potentially precedent-setting move without at least some discussion with officials in other counties who are facing many of the same issues.
“Are there ideas and suggestions for this, or do we continue to go on our own?” he asked.
Montgomery is particularly concerned about whether there should be any type of cap on the number of facilities.
“We are producing this waste, so we should find a way to dispose of it in North Dakota also,” he said. “But once we open it for one, we will have interest for more. And that has happened in Williams County already.”
Based on statistics from the state, Montgomery said the tonnage of low-level TENORM ranges from 87,000 to 110,000 tons.
“Secure is limited to 25,000 tons annually, so in my easy math, four to five of the facilities in North Dakota would take care of the amount being produced right now.”
If too many facilities are fighting over the same piece of pie, however, one or more of them are bound to be unprofitable and fail.
“Will they end up being sites that the county is responsible for down the road?” Montgomery asked. “That is my biggest concern.”
Brent Bogar, founder of Jadestone Consulting, said this sort of regional issue is exactly why the Western Dakota Energy Association exists.
There is a lot of industry and regulatory data he can use to help counties arrive at good decisions as to where and how many TENORM facilities are needed.
“Let’s heat map where this is being produced the most,” he suggested. “And then the counties can look at that and see this is where logically it would make sense.”
Counties could also implement a uniform review process, Bogar said. He further elaborated on that idea during the WDEA Board meeting.
“It’s kind of like the uniform truck permit system,” he said. “If we can get to where all the counties share the same review and approval process, then there is no playing one county off of each other.”
Trudy Ruland, with Mountrail County, said her county is requiring facilities to pay the county enough to hire an inspector.
That could serve as a base for a regional program.
“To me, this is a regional issue,” Dunn County Commissioner Daryl Dukart said. “You don’t want mom and pops popping up all over. It makes sense to make this regional.”
Public education will be another critical element, suggested Doug Nordby, commissioner in McKenzie County, where TENORM has also proven to be a divisive issue.
Ruland said she has had constituents tell her they don’t want TENORM on the roadways.
“But it is already on our roadways,” she said. “Because they are removing it and taking it to Montana.”
Bogar said he would include education as an element in a proposal that he will bring back to the WDEA board for review in January.
“Some you will never change their minds,” he said.
Consistency is key, Ruland suggested.
“We need to base this on scientific research, and what we really do need,” she said.