LIMITED OPERATIONS AUTHORIZED AT US ECOLOGY WASTE SITE FOLLOWING EXPLOSION

On February 7, 2019, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) authorized US Ecology to restart some operations at a waste facility following a November 2018 explosion that killed one worker and injured eight others.

The following day, US Ecology Idaho received a number of shipments.  According to the company, additional shipments are expected shortly.  In addition, some FUSRAP waste remains in rail cars awaiting disposal, while other waste is currently onsite that meets the disposal criteria, according to US Ecology officials.

US Ecology plans to resume drum processing, waste treatment and other waste management services in the future, although the dates therefore remain unspecified.

Incident

The incident originally occurred at US Ecology’s 328-acre hazardous waste disposal operation near the city of Grand View, Idaho on November 17, 2018.  The resultant blast blew holes in the roof of the facility that is used for processing waste barrels.  An equipment operator was killed and eight employees suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  The Idaho landfill, however, was not damaged in the incident.

US Ecology, Idaho DEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all continue to investigate the cause of the explosion.  According to a press release, US Ecology has made significant progress in understanding the event and is analyzing samples and other data collected in the wake of the explosion. 

Authorization

The Idaho DEQ authorization was issued in response to a request from US Ecology Idaho that was submitted on January 25 2019.  According to an Idaho DEQ press release, the state agency issued the authorization after “certification that the landfill cells are ready to receive waste and a subsequent letter certifying that necessary equipment is in place and can support the safe disposal of waste.”

Specifically, the authorization was issued after a professional engineer certified the state of the landfill cells and US Ecology demonstrated it had support equipment available.  The Idaho DEQ also performed several site visits and inspections, as well as reviewed the company’s temporary authorization request for operations.  The Idaho DEQ then determined that US Ecology could resume limited landfill disposal in a compliant and environmentally protective manner.

The Idaho DEQ approval will enable US Ecology Idaho to begin receiving off-site waste for direct disposal – i.e., the waste may go to the landfill without stopping for storage or treatment.  Idaho DEQ is allowing US Ecology to conduct acceptance and disposal of select bulk wastes, but has not yet authorized the company to resume waste treatment operations.  US Ecology was required to meet several safety requirements before issuance of the authorization.

Background

Boise-based US Ecology operates facilities throughout the United States for disposal and treatment of radioactive and other waste types.  The US Ecology Idaho site is used for disposal and treatment of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes.

US Ecology sites may accept material designated as very low-activity radioactive waste by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and waste from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) cleanup sites.  US Ecology Idaho can also take in naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM).

For additional information, please contact Joe Weismann of US Ecology at (208) 319-1634 or at (joe.weismann (at) usecology (dot) com) joe.weismann (at) usecology (dot) com.