Phone Tip Uncovers Radioactive Waste Dumping

The Oregon Department of Energy has issued a Notice of Violation for disposal of radioactive materials at the Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste landfill near Arlington, Oregon. Oregon law prohibits the disposal of radioactive materials in the state. In consultation with other State of Oregon agencies, ODOE determined there is no current threat to landfill workers, the public, or the environment from this waste.

ODOE initially learned of a potential violation thanks to a citizen phone tip. ODOE launched an immediate investigation and confirmed that materials with radioactive elements were disposed in violation of state law at the Chemical Waste Management site, which is located a few miles south of Arlington. After ODOE brought it to their attention, the landfill operator immediately stopped accepting the waste.

The waste is known as TENORM – Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. Radioactivity occurs naturally in the environment, but can be concentrated during human activity, like commercial or industry purposes. The TENORM disposed at the Arlington landfill includes out-of-state materials that are byproducts from the natural gas industry.

In its official Notice of Violation to Chemical Waste Management, ODOE found that the company failed to do its due diligence by incorrectly analyzing the waste against Oregon’s criteria for the definition of “radioactive material” before it was disposed. ODOE directed Chemical Waste Management to prepare a risk assessment to formally evaluate potential past, present, and future risk from the waste, and to develop a corrective action plan to outline the processes the company will put in place to prevent re-occurrence. This will also help determine the best and safest course of action for the waste that is already buried. ODOE expects the company’s risk assessment and corrective action plan to be submitted this spring.

“The Oregon Department of Energy is grateful to the citizen caller for alerting us to the violation at the landfill,” said Ken Niles, ODOE’s Assistant Director for Nuclear Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “Chemical Waste Management has been cooperative and acting in good faith as we work together to address this violation and ensure it does not happen again.”

While this Chemical Waste Management site is the only hazardous waste landfill in Oregon, ODOE is reaching out to all other landfills in the state to remind them of Oregon’s law prohibiting radioactive material disposal. Learn more about Oregon’s disposal rules on ODOE’s website.

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