Environment | National

Native Sun News: Waste dump near Pine Ridge still contested

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

This aerial photo shows where petroleum contaminated soil could be “land farmed" in of Edgemont, South Dakota. The site is on the southwest side of Builder Lane. The Edgemont Municipal Airport is immediately to the east of the site and the border of the Pine Ridge Reservation is also to the east. Image from Google Maps

Waste dump one step closer to Pine Ridge Reservation
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

HOT SPRINGS –– An Oct. 31 judicial ruling moved High Plains Resources LLC a step closer to locating an unprecedented petroleum waste disposal site in Fall River County, adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The ruling means “we will be getting fracking waste dumps,” said Fall River County resident Susan Henderson.

A rancher outside of Edgemont, where the waste handling site would be, Henderson was among Fall River County citizens who gathered more than 250 petition signatures to successfully place a referendum on the ballot in the Nov. 4 general election for the purpose of overturning the county commission’s June approval of the waste handling project.

However, following the Oct. 31 public hearing in the Shannon and Fall River county seat of Hot Springs, South Dakota Seventh Circuit Judge Robert Mandel reaffirmed his decision earlier in October to set aside the results of the referendum vote on the so-called soil landfarm.

The referendum remained on the ballot for the district it affects, and the results of the vote on the subject will not be released unless the defendants seeking to validate the referendum vote win their case at the state Supreme Court level, according to Mandel’s order.

The commission resolution was not subject to reversal by referendum due to the way the laws are written, Mandel said at the hearing in the matter brought to court by High Plains Resources LLC.

Defendants base their appeal on a claim of county commission violations of the open-meetings law.

High Plains Resources LLC is a Belle Fourche-based company, whose CEO, attorney Kenneth Barker, is one of five brothers originally from Edgemont, all involved in promoting the endeavor. The others are Kerry, Kelvin, Kurt and Kris.

Together with other local professionals, Clint and Keith Andersen of Andersen Engineering, Barkers explained to the commission in June that their firm would receive petroleum-contaminated materials caused by industry in Wyoming, just across the county line.

The Fall River Board of County Commissioners voted, 3-1 with one abstention, for the project, despite a clear majority show of hands by those in attendance opposing the proposed site.

Before making a permitting decision, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources would need Edgemont City Council approval; state Game, Fish and Parks Department input, and a planning and zoning statement, according to DENR Solid Waste Secretary Jim Wendte.

Fall River County has no planning and zoning.

After attending the county hearing, Wendte concluded the application would be nothing like those of the approximately 20 gasoline- and diesel-contaminated disposal sites in the state. “Residues from drilling and production from oil and gas fields” would be processed at the new site, he said.

According to the federal government’s Argonne National Laboratory, soil land farming -- or the repeated application of drilling wastes to the land -- allows the soil's naturally occurring microbial population to metabolize, transform, and assimilate waste constituents in place. It is a form of bioremediation.

The petroleum exploration and production industry has used land farming to treat its oily wastes for years, according to ANL.

However, it warns: “When considering land farming as a waste management option, several items should be considered. These include site topography, site hydrology, neighboring land use, the physical (texture and bulk density) and chemical composition of the waste and the resulting waste-soil mixture.

“Wastes that contain large amounts of oil and various additives may have diverse effects on parts of the food chain.

“Constituents of particular concern include pH, nitrogen (total mass), major soluble ions (Ca, Mg, Na, Cl), electrical conductivity, total metals, extractable organic halogens, oil content, and hydrocarbons.

“Salt can be a problem in some areas, such as parts of Canada, the mid-continent, and the Rocky Mountains,” ANL says.

“Wastes that contain significant levels of biologically available heavy metals and persistent toxic compounds are not good candidates for land farming, as these substances can accumulate in the soil to a level that renders the land unfit for further use,” it adds.

“Site monitoring can help ensure such accumulation does not occur. Some land farms may require liners and groundwater monitoring wells,” it notes.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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