ANGELICA — A pair of  Casella Waste Systems representatives, who manage the Hyland Landfill, requested time this week to speak to the Times Herald to address concerns from a community activist group regarding drilling waste being dumped at the site which was reported to the newspaper earlier this week.

The Concerned Citizens of Allegany County (CCAC) in a letter to the Times Herald said thousands of tons of potentially radioactive and hazardous waste — remnants from drilling in developing Marcellus shale gas wells in Pennsylvania — was disposed in the Hyland Landfill in Angelica for the last five years.

Joe Boyles, general manager, and Larry Shilling, vice president, don’t deny there is radioactive material in some of the drillings, also referred to as cuttings, or waste brought to the dump. However, they wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the material.

Mr. Boyles said the facility only accepts cuttings from the process that is conducted well before the hydraulic fracking begins. It’s not the actual waste from the fracking process as the CCAC stated in the letter. He added the landfill hasn’t accepted drillings associated at the site for more than a year.

“When we did have drillings coming here, it’s was dirt, sand and rock in the drillings,” said Mr. Boyles. “It’s construction and demolition waste.”

Another misconception, said Mr. Shilling, is that these drillings contain highly concentrated amounts of radioactivity. He said this simply isn’t the case, stating there are only trace amounts — typically found in the liquid remnants on the drillings — which is no more than what a person might find in everyday items.

“You can find higher concentrations of radioactivity in tiles and granite countertops, cat litter ... anything made of stone may be radioactive,” he said.

Mr. Shilling also said his facility prescreens the materials prior to them coming to the site and then scans each truck for radiation at the entrance gate. Trucks carrying materials out from the site also travel through the detectors.

Mr. Shilling added that if a truck activates the radiation detector upon entry, his staff immediately checks the materials to determine what the source of the radiation is and also notifies the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) about the alarm.  

“If a material contains a high concentration of radium, we won’t allow it in the landfill. We can’t. That’s a material that needs to be dumped at a site that accepts that type of material,” said Mr. Shilling. “There are government standards, and we’re not exceeding those standards. The radium in the material we receive here is below the Environmental Protection Agencies standards. It’s not a significant issue.”

Mr. Boyles added there were three occasions when the detectors were activated, and he believes it was medical treatment waste, not drillings waste, that triggered the sensors each of those times.

The Times Herald asked why the materials have to be brought to the landfill if they are no different that any other type of dirt.

“As far as I know, nowhere in the Northeast allows land spreading of the cuttings. The drillers would have to leave the cuttings piled at the site,” Mr. Shilling explained. “So, even though the driller may be able to dispose of the cuttings at the drill site, they will remain responsible for some level of managing those cuttings and some amount of liability, forever. I think they wisely choose to send the cuttings to a landfill that is designed with environmental protections and management systems in place.”

He said landfills use safety measures, such as double lining the cells, to keep the waste from seeping into soil. In addition, the liquid that collects in the landfill, also called leachate, is collected through perforated pipes placed throughout the landfill. The leachate then travels through additional piping for transport to a leachate collection pond, where it is treated before it’s transported to the Wellsville Wastewater Plant.

The Times Herald was unable reach the village’s director of public works — he was out of the office Thursday afternoon — regarding the leachate the facility receives from Hyland, but the director reported to other news publications earlier this week the site wouldn’t accept leachate from the landfill if there is a problem with radioactivity.

“We understand why some people have concerns. We admit when we heard the words ‘radioactive shale’ before we started to receive the drillings, we freaked out a bit,” said Mr. Shilling. “But after we learned more about the waste, we figured out how to handle it. We want to protect ourselves, our employees, the environment and the community. We’re doing the best we can, and following the guidelines for all of the waste here.”

 

(Contact reporter Darlene M. Donohue at ddonohue@oleantimesherald.com.)

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