TENORM is contaminating water in Eastern Montana

GLENDIVE, Mont. - Oaks Disposal near Glendive, Mont., has been accepting a radioactive by-product, or TENORM, at a level of 50 pico-curies per gram for about five years. Recently, nearby residents say they are having issues with water being contaminated.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality says quarterly tests show groundwater has had “significant increases” of chloride and radium, but are not at risk-based levels.

To reduce the levels, the facility has increased the storm-pond sizes to collect more runoff, which is where the department of environmental quality thinks the problem started. At the same time, the department is in the process of approving a draft that would allow disposal facilities across the state to raise the levels of radioactivity levels accepted by facilities to 200 pico-curies per gram.

Ed Thamke MTDeQ Waste & Underground Management Bureau Chief said, “We think it’s environmentally protective, and it’s probably the way of the future. I would suspect that if North Dakota works on implementing their rule, and starts licensing their facilities, this might be something that they would take a look at in the future, because we know other states in the region are doing the same thing."

Williston’s 13-mile landfill is currently applying to accept 50 pico-curies per gram of radioactivity, and around 78 percent of the TENORM Oaks Disposal receives is from North Dakota.