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Estill County leaders to fight 'tooth and toenail' over radioactive waste in landfill

(WKYT)
Published: Feb. 26, 2016 at 4:35 PM EST
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Estill County leaders say they fight "tooth and toenail" to get the bottom of how low-level radioactive waste ended up in a county landfill and to ensure there is no public health risk.

"We don't want people to think that we are trying to cover something up. We don't want to think the landfill is trying to cover something up. We want to get to the bottom of this," Estill County Judge-Executive Wallace Taylor said Friday afternoon.

The radioactive waste from operations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia was illegally sent to the Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County between July and November 2015.

The waste came from rock and brine brought to the surface during oil and gas drilling.

One of the first steps the county is taking is do its own testing on water levels at the landfill and nearby schools rather than relying completely upon the word of the state and landfill operator.

They are also having a company come in to check for radiation at the landfill and schools.

Taylor says he expects the landfill operators to pay the cost of $10,000 to $11,000 for the county-sponsored independent tests which will begin Sunday.

The state is expected to issue a violation notice to the landfill on Tuesday, opening the door for possible fines to follow, Taylor said.

The state opened its investigation after receiving a tip in January.

The Division of Waste Management discovered radioactive material sealed in 47 dumpster boxes that were each 25 cubic yards-that's roughly the size of a large dumpster. While the boxes came from a company in West Virginia, Advanced TENORM Services L.L.C, which is based in West Liberty, made arrangements for the disposal.

Taylor said the county now wants to tighten restrictions to better monitor what goes in the landfill.

"I think one time they thought Jimmy Hoffa was buried out there," he said. "I'm serious. There's no telling what's in it. And that's one reason we want to look and try to focus toward trying to come up with some equipment to make the landfill purchase that examines every truck that comes in there. Every vehicle. It can scan it like an X-ray."

Kentucky has an exclusive contract with Illinois to manage radioactive waste from the state. Illinois is the only state that is allowed to dump radioactive waste in Kentucky.

Additionally, the radioactive level of the material that was buried was at least 340 times more than the amount that is allowed to be buried at a solid waste landfill. State officials say the landfill does have a liner and the material has been buried.

The waste was more refined than average, making it more radioactive.