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Things to know before the upcoming TENORM hearing in Glendive

1 On Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m., at the Glendive City Hall, 300 S. Merill Avenue, Glendive, the Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing to consider the proposed adoption of new TENORM disposal regulations. Before the hearing, on the same day, at 6 p.m., the department will conduct an informal public meeting to discuss the proposed rules and answer questions pertaining to these rules.

2 TENORM stands for technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material. It’s usually exposed due to due to activities like manufacturing, mineral extraction or water processing. New regulations would increase the amount a facility may receive during a single load of waste from 50 picocuries to 200 picocuries per gram of radium.

3 Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) looked at several states that deal in similar industries before coming up with the proposed regulations. Those states include Texas, Wyoming, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

4 Waste & Underground Tank Management Bureau Chief Ed Thamke said the types of landfills in North Dakota sets the state apart from proposed Montana regulations. North Dakota limits the tonnage in industrial landfills to the 25,000 tons, but they also don’t currently have a TENORM disposal facility in the state. A landfill near Williston is working on that.

By comparison, Montana doesn’t limit the amount of TENORM waste to 25,000 tons. What Montana does is require the disposal facility to maintain documentation of the average concentration of the waste being accepted. That data is monitored over time to ensure facilities are not exceeding 50 picocuries per gram on average.

5 What Montana also does differently is ground and surface water monitoring. It’s a little stricter than North Dakota and Thamke said the neighboring state is looking at what Montana is doing.

“We’ve always had that eye on each other to make sure we are being consistent across that border,” Thamke said.

6 Waste acceptance criteria at the gate, an average of 50 picocuries per gram, has raised some eyebrows, Thamke said.

“People think, ‘How can you maintain that average if you’re letting 200 picocuries through?’” he said. “We don’t anticipate every load that shows up at these facilities is going to be high. What we’re trying to do is allow these facilities to accept an occasional high load, such as filter socks or surface contaminated pipe, that sort of thing. Overall the percentage of those types of materials in the waste stream is a pretty small percentage. But if we don’t create a situation where they can be legally disposed of, then they are illegally disposed of.”

7 While these proposed regulations are being implemented in a new manner, they are not new regulations overall. Thamke said the Montana Solid Waste Act has been in place since the 1970s and since then there has been a regulatory framework for solid waste management.

The new regs address waste facility construction, operations, monitoring, spill reporting, financial assurance and post-closure care of facilities.

8 Disposal facilities are not currently operating without regulations. What’s different about the proposed rules is they more specific to TENORM — what to monitor, where and in what units. There’s one facility operating in Montana for disposal of TENORM — Oaks Disposal 25 miles outside Glendive. The proposed regulations were previously used a permit conditions in order for the facility to operate.

9 The difference between this rule package and the one proposed in 2017 is the DEQ “beefed up” regulations concerning for ground and surface water monitoring, as well as air monitoring in and around facilities, Thamke said.

10 Buzzwords like “radioactive waste” have made TENORM a bit of a hot topic, but Thamke said people should know the waste isn’t in the same category as nuclear waste.

“I will say these regulations are designed specifically to manage the very, very low level waste that would come not only from oil and gas waste productions, but TENORM is also associated with public waste water treatment,” Thamke said. “These rules would apply to waste water sludges as well. There are a variety of industrial processes that produce technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material.”

11 NORM is present in common household items, including bananas at 4 picocuries per gram (pCi/gm), Brazil nuts at 6 pCi/gm, cat litter at 5 pCi/gm, coffee at 27 pCi/gm, granite countertops at 27 pCi/gm, and phosphate fertilizer at 123 pCi/gm.

Written comments can be snail-mailed to DEQ offices at P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901. Otherwise comments can be emailed to Sandy Scherer at sscherer@mt.gov. Comment can be collected at the public hearings in Glendive on Sept. 24 and/or in Helena on Oct. 10.

New hemp processor repurposes old Chaznline office, economic development discusses

Hemp processor American Harvest is working on a new location in Sidney in the former Chaznline office on Highway 16 North. Richland Economic Development (RED) discussed the new business during the regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

“American Harvest is the industrial hemp processor that is establishing itself in Richland County,” Leslie Messer, RED executive director, said. “We were included in a great conversation on a conference call back on Aug. 23.”

That call included the governor’s office, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, economic development and American Harvest Government Affairs Liaison Kathy McLane.

“They were basically introducing the study about the new processor. They are going to be taking the hemp and processing it and taking the oil out of it and then using the fiber to do various things,” Messer said.

During building renovation, American Harvest is waiting on their license from the state. Currently, the department of agriculture is responsible for the licensing and regulations, Messer said. American Harvest is expecting the license to come this month.

“If you remember when we had the MonDak Ag Days, the department of ag actually came in and talked about hemp and how important it is to get the certified seed, which all comes out of Canada,” Messer said. “The national level doesn’t have a policy on how to handle and manage this particular product. There’s a stall there, but the state of Montana wrote a policy on how to manage this and sent it up to the mothership and they are still debating.”

Construction on the building will include modifications to the facility, security fence encompassing the property, new cooling system and installing food-grade equipment.

“One of things they are most excited about is they can make concrete blocks with this fiber,” Messer said.

The new processing plant is looking to provide around 20 jobs to start in the area and once the plant is up and running, up to around 70 jobs. Messer said the plant is currently serviced by Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative and are researching possible solar providers as well.

In other news

Katie Dasinger, program director for RED, reported eight new people attended the Sidney Young Professionals meeting in August. SYP is currently in early planning stages for the 2021 Montana Young Professionals Summit in Sidney and enlisted the help of Brian McGinnis for a drone-footage promotional video of the area with the tagline, “See you in Sidney.” Dasinger said she hopes the video will be able to serve multiple groups in the area with bids for other conventions.

Sugar beets are on everyone’s mind this fall. David Garland, general manager of Sidney Sugars, said harvest begins Sept. 24 and campaign begins Sept. 26. Garland met with Montana Department of Transportation and Knife River reps to discuss the ongoing construction on East Holly and the effect it will have on beet harvest. Knife River and MDT agreed to have the corner by Blue Rock cleared for trucks, although it likely will not be paved.

Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder reported library construction was on schedule, although this week did cause some rain delays.

Coalition forms to combat substance abuse problems in Richland County

The rundown

Montana is facing a substance abuse epidemic and Richland County is feeling the hurt on a local level. Drug related crimes are peaking, with local law enforcement estimating around 90 percent of county jail inmates have drug-related crimes or were abusing drugs at the time of their crime. Alcohol is still the number one substance being abused in the state, but methamphetamine is on the rise — the overwhelmingly majority of meth is being trafficked into Montana from Mexico.

The response

Government Affairs committee in Sidney has started a drug awareness coalition to combat substance abuse and have reached out to Sidney Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Richland County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Prairie Hills Recovery Center, Sidney High School, city council and county commission for assistance in formulating a plan to combat area drug and alcohol abuse.

The first meeting for the coalition took place Tuesday, Sept. 10, with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion stopping by while they were in town on a campaign trail. Fox said meth related crimes have had a 100 percent increase from 2014 to 2018.

“While nobody wants to have these issues in their community, this is all over the state in varying degrees,” Fox said. “We’re also seeing it’s a kind of an organic and systemic issue. It’s not one industry, like for instance when the Bakken boom moved in and out. You might see a spike and might see individuals from out of state engaging in these activities temporarily, it really is something systemic in our communities.

“We’ve changed our attitudes over the years in terms of how we look at substance use disorders, the psychology and psychiatry of having what we call an addiction is being understood more and more. It’s tremendously difficult to get someone out of that cycle of abuse.”

Fox said the substance abuse issue in Montana is a force to be reckoned with.

“This is an epidemic of crisis proportions we’ve never seen in our state before,” he said. “I think the next administration in the governor’s office has to tackle this head on.”

Bennion said there are three big categories when addressing addiction: enforcement, prevention and treatment.

“When I was growing up, we had Dare, ‘Just Say No,’ things like that,” Bennion said. “Montana Meth project was another major effort. We need to have something tailored for Montana that keeps people from getting addicted in the very first place. We know we can’t get everybody, but what if we just started to chip away at it by 10 percent?”

Bennion also spoke about expanding drug treatment court programs in the state, funding and state resources for tasks forces. He said there are almost no resources available from the state for drug task forces.

“Enforcement is not going to go away. We can’t say treatment and prevention are enough,” Bennion said. “Nobody just wakes up one day and says, ‘I think it would be a good life decision to start doing meth.’ No one does that. There is a path to meth. Understanding how somebody could arrive at that point, figuring out what may have diverted them, is incredibly helpful.”

Fox left the newly-formed group with a hopeful message.

“I’m from eastern Montana. I grew up in Hardin. This entire state, I love. It hurts me personally to know and understand that we have people dying, that we have needs going unmet and that people sometimes feel unsafe in their own communities,” he said. “That’s not what Montana is all about. But if I have any reason to be happy or excited, it’s that Montanans are also the best at solving problems.”

What’s next

The coalition discussed many possible avenues to begin solving substance abuse issues on the local level, from reinventing the Dare program, to parental involvement and law enforcement solutions. Chief of Police Frank DiFonzo and Richland County Sheriff John Dynneson agreed to work on a budget for what a task force may cost. The group will also reach out to other parties who can contribute to solutions, like Judge Luke Savage, county attorney Janet Christoffersen, Fairview school officials and Rep. Joel Krautter. The next meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Eagles fall to Rams for homecoming night

Sidney Eagles faced the billings Central Rams on Friday night for the homecoming game. After days of endless rain, the skies opened up for a beautiful fall Friday evening for fans to enjoy some high school football. The stands were filled with some Eagles fans even spilling over to the visitor bleachers.

The game began with Eagles receiving. Aden Graves had key catches in the first quarter as a receiver. But the Rams were able to push through Eagle defense for the first score of the night. With the PAT good, the score became 0-7. On the next possession, the Eagles pushed for some har- fought yards against the Rams stellar defense but again came up scoreless. The Rams struck quickly once again, bringing the score to 0-14. Eagles fought hard at the end of the first quarter into the second aided by a huge pass to Jaxson Franklin. The Eagles found themselves in the red zone for the first time of the night.

The Eaglest effort was unfortunately thwarted as the Rams intercepted a pass in their own red zone. Eagles held strong after the tough conversion and forced a fourth down punt giving them possession at the 50-yard line which starts a possession that ends on as turnover on downs, Rams possession. The Rams made good on excellent field position, running through the Sidney defense for their third touchdown of the night, score 0-21. With 30 seconds left in the second quarter, the Rams add another score on the already exhausted Sidney defense ending a tough half for the Eagles, 0-28.

At the start of the third quarter, the Rams receives the kick and passed for what would be the last score of the night, 0-35. Valiant efforts by Sidney’s offense were tortured by turnovers in the third and fourth quarter. The Rams held Sidney scoreless in a tough homecoming loss. Eagles 0, Rams 35.

Photo by Enid Huotari  

Sidney Chamber leadership class

Sidney Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 leadership class addressed tourism and recreation for day one. Participants are, front from left, Bill Vander Weele, Jackie Miller, Nick Kallem, Shay Steinbeisser, Kathryn Murphy and Amy Bieber. Back row: JD Mulkey, Janelle Chamberlain, Jeri Chapman, Kallie Berndt, Kaila Dally, Erin Lambert, Tonya Schoepp, Harleigh Manley and Heidi Moran.