Permit allows radioactive waste treatment

YOUNGSTOWN – A temporary permit allowing a Youngstown waste company to accept, store and transfer radioactive material generated in natural gas and oil drilling is being appealed by a local anti-fracking group.

The chief of the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management on March 6 granted a six-month temporary permit for Industrial Waste Control / Ground Tech., Inc., to conduct “tank cleaning, radiological surveys, waste storage, waste characterization, waste treatment (solidification) and waste preparation for storage” at its facility at 240 Sinter Court, Youngstown.

In its Jan. 31 application to the state, IWC said business associate Austin Master Services, which already holds a radioactive materials license for Ohio, will perform radiological waste characterization and other treatment and decontamination services at the Youngstown facility.

Leaders of Frack Free Mahoning Valley, or FFM, and residents who live near the site are appealing the temporary permit.

“The individual members of FFM believe that they can, and will, be physically harmed by even routine pollutants and radiation being released from the Ground Tech facility into air and water, with consequent physical effects on their families and themselves,” states the appeal, dated April 22.

At least four members of Frack Free Mahoning Valley, vocal opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the process of natural gas and oil drilling, are scheduled to speak on the issue at this week’s Youngstown City Council meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Among those appearing on the public comments agenda is Susie Beiersdorfer, who last year ran unsuccessfully for Youngstown City Council president.

“This is just upwind from Youngstown,” Beiersdorfer said Monday. “Nobody knew about this, and is this appropriate? We have been calling for open dialogue since 2011, trying to get our city officials more involved.”

Radioactivity occurs naturally deep underground, including in the Utica Shale. Waste generated in the drilling process generally carries low levels of radioactivity. Just how much is safe has remained a point of contention even among scientists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“What do we do with all this waste that has been generated?” Beiersdorfer said. “We are creating these huge volumes. Ohio is opening the flood gates.”

Ron Trivisonno, an oil and gas engineer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources which oversees the Division of Oil and Gas, said ODNR’s monitoring of this type of waste disposal is relatively new, coming after Ohio legislators adopted new rules in September.

“We’re in a transition period. There’s not a lot of them,” Trivisonno said of frac waste facilities similar to IWC.

He noted that state inspections of facilities are to occur randomly in an attempt to ensure facilities adhere to terms of their applications

IWC President Matt Frontino was not available for comment Monday, and a message left seeking comment from Austin Master Services was not immediately returned.

Tribune Chronicle reporter Margaret Thompson contributed to this report.