Two landfills in South Central Pennsylvania—the Cumberland County Landfill and IESI Blue Ridge Landfill—have state approval to accept drill cuttings from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations. Drill cuttings are the leftover dirt, rock, mud and lubricants that come out of the bore hole.
The Cumberland County Landfill has received more than 17,000 tons of cuttings in two months with approval from the state Department Environmental Protection, according to DEP spokesman John Repetz.
“This approval is for drill cuttings only, much like drill cuttings from any other oil or gas well drilled in Pennsylvania,” Repetz said. “This authorization does not cover liquid waste or fracking wastewater.”
DEP also has approved the application of IESI Blue Ridge Landfill to take drill cuttings, but the landfill in Greene Township has yet to accept any cuttings, Repetz said.*
Often when landfills start accepting drill cuttings from the Marcellus Shale opposition arises (although MDN has not heard of any opposition yet for Cumberland County and IESI Blue Ridge). Why? Along with the dirt and mud comes some low-level, naturally occurring radioactive material, usually from radium-226 (the same stuff that creates radon in your basement). The issue of whether to allow drill cuttings has been studied by other municipalities, like Chemung County, NY, and they have found the low levels of radiation are well within safety limits.
*Public Opinion (Jan 31) – Marcellus Shale drilling waste OK for area landfills