A group of Kentucky citizens fighting to rid their hometown landfill of illegally dumped radioactive fracking waste has challenged the state environmental regulators’ approval of a plan to seal the illegal waste in the ground.
Concerned Citizens of Estill County filed a petition with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Office of Administrative Hearings, objecting to the “unknown and uncertain effects on community members’ health and the environment for generations to come.”
The state attorney general determined the dumping was a criminal act but said the cabinet did not authorize his office to prosecute.
Advanced Disposal Services, which operates the Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County, operates in 16 states and the Bahamas. Officials say the firm knowingly accepted low-level radioactive waste from surrounding states and illegally dumped it in Kentucky. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in 2016 that monitoring and testing results have “showed no evidence” that the dumping led to “radioactive contamination above federal and state safety limits.”
The company’s $90,000 civil penalty can be offset by doing other environmental projects. Advanced will put $60,000 in an escrow account for detection of naturally occurring radon in the Estill County School District. In addition, preliminary results indicate that landfill workers “are not at risk for any negative outcomes,” the Cabinet’s press release said.
The Energy and Environment Cabinet hopes sealing the material will prevent any leakage. However, a seal would only be effective until the 2060s, and the half-life of the materials in the landfill is over 1,500 years.
The alternative solution supported by the CCEC is to dig up and remove the waste.
There is no federal regulation following the entire disposal process of radioactive waste from fracking companies, and waste is often misplaced or forgotten and becomes “orphan waste” There have been 2 suits against the owner of the Blue Ridge landfill for violations of a 1995 agreement with the town that prevents the dumping of hazardous materials, including radioactive waste. So far, the owner has paid $95,000 in civil penalties and the Hoskins company (the company that produced the waste) has been fined $5.3 million by the state of Kentucky.
“Estill Group Files Petition Regarding Landfill Decision,” Richmond Register, June 8, 2018, https://www.richmondregister.com/news/estill-group-files-petition-regarding-landfill-decision/article_03f971bc-6b20-11e8-a291-bf900a8b8031.html.
Concerned Citizens of Estill County (CCEC), “Petition For Hearing and Review,” https://appalachianlawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2018/06/2018-06-07-Pet-for-review-hearing.pdf.
Austyn Gaffney, “A Small Town’s Battle Against Radioactive Fracking Waste,” onEarth, January 9, 2019, https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/small-towns-battle-against-radioactive-fracking-waste.
Robert W. Shaffer, “Kentucky Should Reverse Decision Leaving Radioactive Fracking Waste in Estill Landfill,” Lexington Herald Leader, June 1, 2018, https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article212388839.html.
Student Researchers: Riley Anderson, Jessica Duane, Anna Quattrini (University of Massachusetts Amherst)Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)