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...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Musings

The news is rife with trouble. Russia is acting up, and Malaysia Flight 370 remains unfound. Regarding the latter, I can't imagine what it must be like for those left behind to wonder about loved ones who seem to have vanished into thin air. Fifteen days with no news. Is the plane in the ocean? Did it crash into a jungle? Or is the engine purring on some remote tarmac, the passengers held hostage or dead, the hijackers planning some as yet unforeseen new terror? As for the former, it feels like we're heading back to the duck and cover days when kids were instructed to climb under desks at the first sign of a colossal flash of light.

Calendars tell us spring is here. Really? Because it's been snowing where I am. Snowing and cold. And windy. Howling wind as a matter of fact. Confused crocuses popped up last week near my driveway and are now frozen solid, their tiny buds encased in ice crystals. My cats and dog continue to huddle in warm inside corners, gazing at me pleadingly as if the bitter cold is somehow my fault. Every morning I peer out the window and wonder if today will be the one when the first balmy spring breeze arrives. That's the first thing I check. My second morning chore is to click on the television to find out if today's headlines will finally give some relief to families waiting on the ground for confirmed news of an airplane's location, good or bad. Then I switch channels to see if Russian troops have marched across another border. Or if Chris Christie has been frog-marched out of office. Or if Winter Storm Zeb is marching across the country. March has been a month of marching.

Attended a wonderful party last night hosted by my friend Jennifer. Jen's mom turned 85, and the party was in her and her twin sister's honor. The evening's highlight for me was when Jen, in her toast, looked lovingly at her mother and said, "Mom, it seems like only yesterday when you were going to send me to reform school." Like many mothers and daughters, Jen and Janet struggled through the turbulent teen years. Now they live under the same roof and are the best of friends. Who knew?

Like Russia and Flight 370 and spring and relationships and, indeed, everything else, I suppose we never know how things are going to turn out until they finally do. We can have our expectations and our fears and our plans, but in the end it seems life is just one big crazy puzzling crap shoot.

"Shut out the noise," a friend told me once.
"Get a helmet," said another.
"Let it roll baby roll," said The Doors. "The future's uncertain and the end is always near."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hazardous Waste Disposal From Oil and Gas Drilling Is Well-Regulated...And Other Fairy Tales

To those of you who believe hazardous waste disposal from the oil and gas industries is well-regulated, read on:

Radioactive ‘Oil Socks’ Found Illegally Stockpiled In Abandoned North Dakota Gas Station

Mar 12, 2014 by 

By Emily Atkin on March 12, 2014 at 12:05 pm

This photo taken on March 3, 2014, and provided by the North Dakota Health Department, shows bags full of radioactive oil filter socks, the nets that strain liquids during the oil production process, piled in an abandoned building in Noonan, North Dakota.
This photo taken on March 3, 2014, and provided by the North Dakota Health Department, shows bags full of radioactive oil filter socks, the nets that strain liquids during the oil production process, piled in an abandoned building in Noonan, North Dakota.
CREDIT: AP Photo/North Dakota Health Department
A heaping mound of black trash bags stuffed with radioactive nets that strain liquids during the oil production process — commonly known as “oil filter socks” — has been found in an abandoned North Dakota gas station, state officials confirmed Wednesday, in what may be the biggest instance of illegal oil socks dumping the state has ever seen.
Police last week discovered the illegally dumped oil socks piled throughout the old gas station building and attached mechanic garage in the small town of Noonan, state Waste Management Director Scott Radig told ThinkProgress. The bags were covered in a layer of dust, Radig said, meaning they had probably been sitting in the building for some time.
The 4,000-square-foot building is owned by a felony fugitive named Ken Ward, who Radig said likely did independent work for the state’s booming oil and gas industry.
“I suspect that [Ward] was doing contract work for some oil company and he told them he would — I’m sure for a price — take these and properly dispose of them,” Radig speculated. “He did it the cheap way, took the money and took off.”
The radiation found in oil socks is naturally occurring, Radig said, but winds up concentrating onto the socks during their filtration process. Like a small net, the socks are used when pumping oil field fluids to filter out anything companies don’t want to go through the pump, or down into an injection well.
North Dakotan soil has a limit of 5 picocuries — the standard measure for the intensity of radioactivity — of radium per gram of soil in order to be considered not radioactive. The oil socks, Radig said, are typically in the range of 10-60 picocuries of radium per gram. Though the bags haven’t been taken to a laboratory for examination yet, Radig said an initial reading showed that the oil socks were “above background, so they are slightly radioactive.”
Radig said the public would not be at risk of exposure unless they ventured over to the abandoned building and began opening the bags. Local police have secured the building with caution tape while they try to make arrangements with Ward’s family. If Ward’s mother — who Radig says has been paying taxes on the building — does not cooperate with cleanup, the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s oil and gas division will have to dip into a fund for cleaning up illegal dump sites. While some of the socks have serial numbers, Radig said it is not possible to track down who they once belonged to, meaning it will likely be either the property owner’s or the state’s responsibility to clean it up.
“The public really isn’t at risk, so from that aspect it’s not an emergency,” Radig said. “It is angering us in the Health Department here that people are doing illegal dumping, and I know people are very upset over it.”
People are upset because the incident is not the first time residents have been informed of illegal radioactive oil waste dumping in their immediate vicinity. In the last decade, North Dakota has quickly risen to the second-largest oil-producing state in the country, inevitably increasing the amount of radioactive waste that must be disposed. North Dakota’s Department of Health in 2013 commissioned a study to look at the rising tide of drilling waste containing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM), and found that oil socks have beenincreasingly showing up in trash loads over the last two to three years, as drilling in the Bakken and Three Forks formations continues.
Radig said that the increasing problem has prompted the Department to develop waste regulations that would enhance the state’s capacity to track the generation, storage, transportation and disposal of radioactive material from the oil and gas industry. He anticipates having those proposed regulations drafted by June 2014.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum