DENVER – Colorado health officials say low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry has been buried illegally in landfills that aren’t approved to handle it.
State Department of Public Health and Environment officials said they do not know how much of the waste has been buried improperly.
Officials said they do not know of any imminent public health threat from the practice. Landfill operators are required to monitor any water that leaches through their sites, the department said.
Exposure to radioactivity can cause cancer.
Low-level radioactive waste can come from sludge captured in oil and gas industry filters, pipelines and tanks.
State law requires landfills that accept such waste to take extra precautions including liners and other protective barriers. Colorado has two landfills that are approved to accept low-level radioactive waste routinely, and a third landfill is expected to open in November.
It’s unclear whether the health department was taking action against anyone believed to be involved in the improper disposal, the newspaper said.
The health department did not immediately respond to a phone call and email from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday.
Martha Rudolph, director of environment programs for the state health department, told the newspaper the Legislature needs to close a loophole in state laws governing the disposal of radioactive waste. The laws require the health department to regulate radioactive materials, but they prevent the department from regulating the disposal of radioactive waste, the newspaper said.
State law does prohibit the disposal of radioactive waste at landfills that are not equipped to handle it.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, said in a written a statement there are no indications that the disposal of low-level radioactive waste in landfills is a problem in Colorado. “We have spoken with the state, with members of the waste industry and others to begin exploring the realities of this matter,” the statement said.