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Radioactive Waste Management Associates

To: From: Date: Re:

Interested Parties Marvin Resnikoff 7/4/2013 Radioactivity in Rock Cuttings

Allied Landfill
In August 2012, rail shipments from a Cabot Oil drill site in Susquehanna County, PA, triggered a radiation detection alarm at the Allied landfill in Niagara County, NY and were held for four months while samples were taken. The samples were sent to a TestAmerica lab in Earth City, MO. For radium-226, the concentrations ranged between 1.6 and 206 pCi/g. After demonstrating that the activity concentrations of the rock cuttings were below DOT regulations1 49CFR173.436, the rock cuttings were eventually not accepted at Allied and cleared for return to Cabot Oil. DOT Regulations Under Federal DOT rules, transported material that exceeds specific activity concentrations and total activity, in terms of total Curies of radioactivity, is classed as a radioactive material. Correspondence between DEC and the shipper make reference to the activity concentrations that are indeed below 2.7x10-10 Ci/g Ra-226 and fail to make reference to the total activity. The specific limit for total Radium226 is 2.7x10-7 Curies2. Below this total activity, the material is not classed as radioactive by DOT; above this amount, specific Federal regulations apply regarding design, packaging and labeling of transportation vehicles. For placarding, the NRC has even stricter limits for total activity, 1 x 10-7 Curies (10CFR20, App. C). DEC did correctly question whether shipments to the Allied landfill should be listed as radioactive under DOT regulations. For 20 ton truckloads, and definitely for a rail car load, the total Ci content exceeds 2.7 x 10-7 Ci.


Letter from URS to J Smelko, Cabot Oil, December 21, 2012. This note and all correspondence refers to 40CFR173.436, not 49CFR173.436. 40CFR 173.436 refers to pesticides under EPA regulations whereas title 40 are DOT regulations. 2 49 CFR 173.436 - Exempt Material Activity Concentrations and Exempt Consignment Activity Limits for Radionuclides." U.S. Government Printing Office. U.S. Government Printing Office. Web. 21 May 2013. <>.

If a shipment is class 7 or radioactive under DOT regulations, specific conditions apply. Under 49 CFR 173.410 and 173.411, any package used for the transportation of radioactive materials must be easily handled and properly secured with a structurally sound lifting attachment, will have an external surface free from protruding features that can be easily decontaminated, all valves through which the package contents could escape will be protected against unauthorized operation and the behavior of the packaging and contents under irradiation will be taken into account. Additionally, the materials that qualify as a Low Specific Activity II waste, must be properly packaged in Industrial Packaging Type 2 (IP-2) or Industrial Packaging Type 3 (IP-3) enclosures. In addition, vehicles transporting hazardous substances, such as rock cuttings or brine, must hold an insurance policy with a minimum level of financial responsibility of $5,000,000. The state of Ohio requires each transporter of brine to hold a liability insurance policy that would cover both bodily injury and property damage caused by processing associated with brine for $600,000. We have not checked New York State DOT regulations, but they must be consistent with federal regulations since these are interstate shipments. Most insurance policies for private cars have liability coverage greater than $1 million. Finally, federal DOT regulations require that hazardous and radioactive shipments be properly placarded. Specifically, federal DOT regulations require this notice: “RADIOACTIVE—LSA” or “RADIOACTIVE—SCO.” Instead, trucks we have seen on Pennsylvania highways are simply labeled “brine.” Radioactive Concentrations of Rock Cuttings In a report we wrote in a DEC case concerning expansion of the Chemung County solid waste landfill to accept rock cuttings from Pennsylvania3, we cited a USGS study4 and gamma logs from drilling companies as proof that Ra-226 concentrations ranged up to 30 pCi/g. We were heavily criticized by the gas drillers, who provided “proof” that rock cuttings were essentially background. These recent measurements by DEC, with Ra-226 concentrations up to 206 pCi/g, along with high radiation readings at the MAX landfill in PA, show that our upper range assumptions were apparently too low. These Ra226 concentrations by DEC at the Allied landfill have major implications for landfill disposal in New York State, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and major implications for radon gas in pipelines to metropolitan areas such as New York City and Philadelphia, where radon gas can enter homes through kitchen stoves. We intend to discuss the implications in more detail in a subsequent report.


Chemung County Landfill permit modification, Application No. 8-0728-00004/00013, petition by RFPLC to intervene, April 2010. 4 Leventhal J, Crock J, and Malcolm M; United States Department of the Interior, Geological Survey. Geochemistry of trace elements and uranium in Devonian shales of the Appalachian Basin. 1981; (Open File Report 81-778).

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