UPDATE: Estill County officials have announced that all air and water tests around the Blue Ridge Landfill have come back clear, showing no radiation from the hazardous shipments that were illegally dumped last year.
Judge Executive Wallace Taylor has said further air and water tests are scheduled for later this week. He also said officials are working on a settlement that would require landfill workers to examine the contents of every truck that enters the property.
- Kentucky’s Waste Management Division and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services are investigating low-level radioactive shipments of waste illegally dumped in Estill County, KY's Blue Ridge Landfill that were delivered in 47 sealed boxes. They're also investigating similar shipments that were sent to the Greenup County dump near West Virginia.
- The state has told landfill operators to block similar incoming shipments and advised waste haulers, transfer station operators, and local waste management officials to be on the lookout too.
- Kentucky officials are working to uncover more information since January, following a tip, and have confirmed the waste was illegally shipped between July and November. Kentucky’s Waste Division is looking into enforcement measures. And state officials are meeting with Advanced Disposal, Blue Ridge Landfill's operators, to discuss how the hazardous material was managed and the possibility that workers were exposed.
The nuclear waste, which was generated during gas and oil drilling in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, is in the form of concentrated radionuclides in rock and brine, known to become more concentrated during recycling, according to Kentucky Division of Waste Management Director Tony Hatton. But officials think the suspect waste that ended up at Green Valley Landfill did not undergo the recycling process that further contaminates the materials, thus posing less risk.
However, the radionuclides in the waste dumped at Blue Ridge can have a half-life of more than 1,000 years, which is especially concerning since landfill liners typically have a 30-year warranty. That means remnants of the radioactive substance are here for a long time, which Louisville attorney and Director of the Kentucky Resources County Tom Fitzgerald is taking seriously. The notice to landfill operators and other waste management professionals punctuates the serious risk from oil and gas fracking he said, adding, "Every county in Kentucky with a landfill needs to have agreements with their owners and operators that ban this kind of waste."
Meanwhile, a county high school and middle school sit across from the landfill.
"Our number one concern is for those kids out there," said Ronnie Riddell, Estill County Emergency Management Agency director, to the Courier-Journal. "It's concerning."
Radioactive material in a landfill has posed big risks in other areas, such as Bridgeton, MO where a fire at the Bridgeton Landfill is threatening to reach hazardous waste in the nearby West Lake Landfill.