This past summer the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 59 which changed various aspects of the regulatory approach toward oil & gas waste material management. One aspect dealt with under H.B. 59 was the regulation of oil & gas related waste that may be considered technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM). H.B. 59 provided Ohio EPA the authority to adopt rules regarding the regulation of TENORM.
What is TENORM?
To understand TENORM, one must understand what constitutes NORM- naturally occurring radioactive materials. NORM is radioactive materials naturally present in the environment (i.e. soils, air and water). NORM emits low levels of naturally occurring radiation and is common to the environment.
TENORM is naturally occurring radioactive material with radionuclide concentrations that are increased by or as a result of pat or present human activities. TENORM is regulated by the Ohio Department of Health. Oil & gas drilling can generate TENORM.
Which oil field wastes are NORM and which are TENORM?
Certain oil & gas related waste is classified as NORM and exempt from regulation. As set forth in the Ohio EPA Fact Sheet on TENORM (see below), drill cuttings are considered NORM and not TENORM. Drill cuttings are the mixture of rock, soil and other subterranean matter brought to the surface during drilling of oil & gas production wells.
Oil & gas drilling related waste classified as TENORM include tank bottoms, spent drilling muds and pipe scale. Here is a description of each of those waste streams:
- Tank Bottoms- material accumulated in storage tanks associated with the oil & gas drilling
- Pipe Scale– the build-up of minerals, rocks, oil and other substances that accumulate on the inside of metal casing and tubing used for the production of oil and natural gas.
- Drilling Mud– fluid used to cool and lubricate the drill bit, helps stabilize the well bore during drilling and keeps fluids in the formation from entering the borehole
What do the new guidance documents from Ohio EPA require?
As of September 29, 2013, any landfill or solid waste transfer facility must receive sample results of any TENORM regulation waste to ensure that the material doesn’t exceed the regulatory limit of 5 pCI/g above natural background. The facilities receiving this material must maintain daily logs that identify the waste streams from oil & gas drilling and retain copies of the sampling.
A solid waste transfer facility or landfill that wants to accept TENORM with concentrations above 5 picocuries per gram must receive proper authorizations from ODH and Ohio EPA. Facilities may receive the material if authorized for purposes of dilution. However, material above 5 picocuries per gram cannot be disposed of in the landfill.
Are rules likely to be adopted by Ohio EPA regarding TENORM?
Yes. Ohio EPA has released a fact sheet soliciting early stakeholder outreach regarding the development of rules regarding TENORM at solid waste landfills and transfer facilities. The rules would potentially govern:
- Monitoring leachate and groundwater for radioactive material;
- Establishing regulations to ensure that TENORM greater than 5 picocuries per gram above natural background is not accepted at the facility. This include development of detection and prevention plans at landfills or solid waste transfer facilities.
What available guidance documents and fact sheets are available from Ohio EPA on this issue?
- Fact Sheet: Drill Cuttings from Oil and Gas Exploration in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Regions of Ohio (October 2013)
- Fact Sheet: House Bill 59- TENORM Acceptance at Solid Waste Landfills and Transfer Facilities;
- Guidance Document: Impact of HB 59 on Solid Waste Landfills and Transfer Facilities
- Municipal Solid Waste Landfill– Daily Log of Operations (Draft)
- Solid Waste Transfer Facility– Daily Log of Operations (Draft)