- During a meeting last week between Colorado state health officials and local governments, Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) hazardous materials and waste management director Gary Baughman said unknown amounts of low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry are going to solid waste landfills in the state, as reported by The Denver Post.
- According to Joe Schieffelin, CDPHE’s solid waste program manager, there are 60 landfills in the state that accept MSW and miscellaneous wastes. However only two landfills — the Clean Harbors landfill in Adams County and the Southside Landfill in Pueblo County — are approved to accept radioactive waste.
- While CDPHE is required to prohibit the disposal of radioactive waste in solid waste landfills, a provision in the state's radioactive materials statue says "CDPHE cannot regulate disposal of those materials," according to the Post. CDPHE officials are now asking state lawmakers to help revise or remove this provision.
In a phone call with Waste Dive, Schieffelin explained that this is a "forward-looking problem" in which CDPHE is working with landfills to collect data on what kinds of waste streams they're taking in — and if those wastes may have materials with radioactive levels unknown to landfill operators.
"We’re not trying to play ‘gotcha’ with the landfills, we’re just trying to figure out do we have a problem here and, if we do, what do we want to do about it?" Schiefflin said to Waste Dive. "This isn’t so much about doing something illegal, it’s more about [if we can] all work together to get some sort of characterization data to see what kind of problem we might be having."
According to the Post, CDPHE regulators said they're not aware if the radioactive waste could have any "imminent" threat to public health, however being proactive and transparent on the issue will only serve beneficial for CDPHE officials moving forward. As exemplified in Bridgeton, MO, residents tend to express extreme concerns — even file lawsuits — in regards to potential radioactive hazards associated with landfills. CDPHE's priority in making regulatory changes is a smart move, and one that will possibly become a model for other state departments.