Highlights From Hotly Debated Estill Radioactive Waste Meeting

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By: Lance Gaither, Marisa Hempel

Since 2015, the illegal dumping of radioactive waste (TENORM) at the Blue Ridge Landfill in Irvine has been a hotly debated topic in both court rooms and in town hall meetings across Estill County. Lately, the corrective action plan mandated by the courts for the landfill to deal with the waste has been released. The options were few: either leave the waste in place and monitor it closely, or remove the radioactive material (which is a by product of hydraulic fracturing mining of oil and gas).

The Estill County Landfill released its plan to leave the radioactive waste in the landfill rather than remove it tonight at the Estill County Extension Office. During the public forum, the landfill cited reasons such as the danger of removal, cost, and low chance of negative health effects from the waste. However, many of the citizens of Estill County were not happy with the decision, which had been approved by the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet earlier this year.

During the January 29th public forum, citizens expressed concerns not only for themselves but for their children and grandchildren, especially as the Blue Ridge Landfill, which has the radioactive waste spread across a 7 acre area, is in close proximity to the Estill County High School.

Some citizens at the meeting felt that they were being overlooked due to the fact that Estill County is a smaller community in the Commonwealth. Others expressed that even though the waste has been deemed safe for the next 30 years, it might begin to leak after the fact into the community’s water supply.

Another problem presented was that radiation could possibly leak through the methane wells located around the landfill. According to officials, if that would occur the wells would be closed and relocated. However, those in attendance then expressed concern about methane build up in the dump.

Frankfort declined to send a representative to the forum and the Kentucky Attorney General has declined prosecution to any party.

The radioactive waste is known as technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material and waste the byproduct of fractal mining. To prevent future illegal dumping of radioactive waste, Morehead and Estill County landfills have installed radiation sensors so that this costly and time consuming problem will not reoccur.