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The disposal of radioactive drilling cuttings from fracking operations is quickly becoming a political hot potato in Ohio.  A proposal by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) would allow naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) resulting from fracking operations to be disposed in the state’s 39 licensed municipal solid waste landfills.  The ODNR proposal was included in the state operating budget proposed by Governor John Kasich’s administration earlier this year.  The Ohio House of Representatives removed the ODNR proposal when it passed its version of the budget bill last month.  House leaders stated that the proposal needed more time for study and debate, and instead should be proposed in a separate “stand alone” piece of legislation.  The Ohio Senate is still considering whether to accept, reject or modify the ODNR proposal in its own version of the budget.  A Senate vote is scheduled for June 5.  Environmental groups argue that allowing the disposal of radioactive materials in municipal solid waste landfills will eventually result in radioactive contamination reaching the surface waters of the state, an occurrence that ODNR has otherwise tried to avoid by requiring that all flowback and production waters from fracking operations be disposed in deep injection wells only.  Environmentalists argue that municipal landfill leachate would contain dissolved radium and uranium from disposed radioactive drilling cuttings if the ODNR proposal were to be enacted.  Landfill leachate waters are typically collected and sent to wastewater treatment plants for processing prior to discharge to state surface waters.  Those groups argue that wastewater treatment plants cannot effectively remove dissolved radium and uranium, which would then be released to surface waters as the treatment plant discharges its “treated” water.  For more information on this topic, see Bob Downing’s article “Radioactive Waste From Drilling Hot Topic With Ohio Eco Groups.”

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