Legislation in works to stop Michigan from importing low-level radioactive waste
Two state legislators are drawing up legislation designed to halt Michigan from importing typically low-level radioactive wastes for burial in the state’s landfills.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, announced last week he would introduce a bill in the coming session to stop private companies outside the state from sending low-level radioactive waste material here. On Tuesday, state Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton, said she would introduce similar legislation this week aimed at banning wastes from out-of-state hydraulic fracturing or fracking operations.
Environmental groups expressed concern last week that a plant in southeast Michigan would be accepting shipments of radioactive sludge from fracking operations in Pennsylvania. Officials with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality plan to review the state’s criteria for accepting and handling such wastes with a panel of experts.
EQ, a subsidiary of U.S. Ecology, operates the Wayne Disposal facility near Belleville and has said it will stop taking the material in question until Snyder’s panel has a chance to complete its review.
Each state has its own standard for what kinds of materials it will allow to be disposed of in landfills. Fracking wastes are termed technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials. Wayne Disposal is designed to handle TENORM wastes and has been doing so since 2006.
“The bill I’m introducing (Wednesday) will send the message that Pure Michigan is no place for radioactive waste,” Slavens said in a press release. Slavens, who is term-limited in the House and is opposing Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, in the fall general election, chided Gov. Rick Snyder for his decision to study the issue with a panel of experts.
“When it comes to standing up for Michigan, we need strong leadership, not jut blue-ribbon study groups stacked with oil and gas CEO,” her statement read.
In announcing his bill last week, Jones said he planned to make Michigan’s regulations on radioactive drilling wastes as strong as those in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“I was shocked to learn that a landfill in Michigan was scheduled to accept nearly 40 tons of low-level radioactive sludge from Pennsylvania,” he stated. “We want a Pure Michigan that attracts families from across the country and the world for fund and excitement in the great outdoors — not as a dumping ground that attracts the country’s radioactive waste.”
Since 2001, all landfills in Pennsylvania are required to monitor for radiation and have a state-approved plan for dealing with wastes that contain radioactive materials, including TENORM, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Pennsylvania also is conducting a large study of TENORM associated with oil and gas activity.