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Loopholes Enable Industry to Evade Rules on Dumping Radioactive Fracking Waste

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As the drilling rush proceeds at a fast pace in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale, nearby states have confronted a steady flow of toxic waste produced by the industry. One of Pennsylvania's most active drilling companies, Range Resources, attempted on Tuesday to quietly ship tons of radioactive sludge, rejected by a local landfill, to one in nearby West Virginia where radioactivity rules are still pending. It was only stopped when local media reports brought the attempted dumping to light.

"We are still seeking information about what happened at the Pennsylvania landfill two months ago when the waste was rejected, and about the radiation test results the company received from the lab," Kelly Gillenwater, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had tracked the waste after it was rejected by a Chartiers, PA landfill because it was too radioactive. "For now this is still under investigation."

It's one of a series of incidents involving the disposal of fracking's radioactive waste. Collectively these incidents illustrate how a loophole for the oil and gas industry in federal hazardous waste laws has left state regulators struggling to prevent the industry from disposing its radioactive waste in dangerous ways.

Range Resource's sludge, transported in two roll-off boxes (the type commonly seen on the backs of dumptrucks), was rejected by the Arden Landfill in Chartiers, PA, a small town west of Pittsburgh, on March 1 after it tripped radioactivity alarms. After returning the radioactive sludge to the wellsite for storage, the company hauled it on Tuesday to the Meadowfield landfill in Bridgeport, WV, an hour and a half drive south of Chartiers.