Radioactive Surprise Could Have Been Avoided with Environmental Site Assessment

Posted on April 29, 2014 in Blog

Getting environmental site assessments before you buy protects against liability for existing contamination

RadioactiveOfficials in North Dakota recently confirmed the discovery of a new illegal waste dump on a property near the town of Crosby. The dump is relatively small, consisting of 15 garbage cans containing about 25 bags of waste, but worrisome because the waste is radioactive. The property in question was recently sold, and the original owner is currently in prison for unrelated reasons. The new owner asserts that the waste was deposited before he purchased the property, but he was unaware of its existence because the bags of waste were covered by snow all winter and spring.

Illegal dumping of hazardous waste is becoming common in North Dakota due to increased economic activity, limited local infrastructure, and onerous waste disposal regulations. The waste found at the property in question consisted of oil filter socks, which are used to filter liquids during oil production activities. At the great depths from which oil is extracted, the earth contains many naturally-occurring radioactive materials. This means that oil filter socks often pick up low levels of radiation, classifying them as hazardous waste. North Dakota law prevents disposing of this kind of radioactive waste in local landfills, so the filters should have been taken to appropriate facilities in Montana, Colorado, or Idaho.

Fortunately, this waste dump can be cleaned up relatively easily—the radioactivity is fairly low and according to the state health department would only pose a risk to the public if ingested or inhaled. However, it was certainly a nasty surprise for the property owner to discover this contamination on the property!

H2 Environmental offers a service that can help prospective buyers avoid unwittingly purchasing contaminated properties. Our Environmental Site Assessments are designed to provide a full and complete picture of any existing or potential environmental liabilities on a given property.

We offer several different types of environmental site assessments, including:

  • Phase I Assessment: includes a site visit to check for visual evidence of contamination as well as historical land and property use research to determine probability of hidden contamination
  • Phase II Assessment: includes air, soil, groundwater, and building materials sampling and analysis
  • Storage Tank Monitoring: includes inspections, monitoring, and sampling of sites with above ground or underground storage tanks
  • Environmental Impact Studies: includes an assessment of the possible impact that new land development or usage may have on the local ecosystem, with special emphasis on wetlands

While environmental site assessments are not required for every property transaction, they can still be a wise precaution to take, especially in areas where contamination is suspected for any reason. Getting an assessment protects you from liability, because even if contamination is discovered later, you will not have to cover the costs of cleanup and remediation.