Dumping Drilling Mud in Landfills

Local and state officials are right to be cautious about West Virginia landfills accepting “drilling mud” from the gas and oil industry. In some places, caution appears to have been taken out with the trash.

Designated landfills in three Ohio counties – Harrison, Columbiana and Carroll – are raking in the money because they accept enormous amounts of drilling mud, it was reported a few days ago.

The three counties are part of a single solid waste district. Its director told Columbiana County commissioners 77 percent of the solid waste accepted at designated landfills in the district is drilling mud. That has resulted in revenue for the district shooting up by nearly 70 percent during the past two years.

Though some of the concern expressed about disposal of drilling mud appears unnecessary, it contains chemicals and levels of radiation not normally accepted at landfills. Learning how enormous volumes of drilling mud affect a landfill, including how it interacts with conventional waste, is important.

For that reason, local and state officials in charge of solid waste disposal in West Virginia are right to move slowly in allowing massive amounts of drilling waste to be dumped in landfills.

Perhaps it is no problem at all. It may be that research in other states backs up that contention by the drilling industry. Again, however, Mountain State officials should insist on learning more about drilling mud disposal in the same landfills used for household waste.