YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued permits in February to Pennsylvania company Austin Master Services.
The permits allow them to posses, store and ship radioactive material associated with waste from the oil and gas industry. An AMS spokesman on Wednesday explained their operations to Youngstown City Council and the public.
Until Wednesday, a lot of people really didn’t know what Austin Master Services was doing and how they were doing it. They have a shared agreement to work out of Industrial Waste Control’s facility on Sinter Court in Youngstown.
But company officials said levels of radiation and radioactivity that pass through their shop barely register higher than what already exists around the general public.
It normally takes 21 days to process and analyze a sample for radioactive material. Austin Master Services does it in a matter of minutes.
“We are able to see the entire contents of the container. We’re not just poking in the container and grabbing a sample out of one end of it,” said Pat Horkman, Ohio oil and gas operations manager for Austin Master Services.
AMS is the first company in the country to use In Situ Object Counting Systems, or ISOCS technology, to analyze fracking waste for radioactivity before it is sent to a landfill. Horkman said there is no waste processing or storage on site, which is something many people wondered about.
“Their application and license was very broad, and they are not doing that, so that lessens some of our concerns,” said Susie Beiersdorfer of FrackFree Mahoning Valley.
“Having less exposure, being able to analyze the source and tell you how much radioactivity is there and letting it pass through the landfill, is a great process,” said Younsgtown 4th Ward Councilman Mike Ray.
Horkman admits they picked the wrong place to set up shop. Since February, only seven tanks have come through to be analyzed. They projected 15 to 20 day.
“We didn’t know where the hot spots were as far as the producers and we found out the hard way,” Horkman said.
But Beiersdorfer said that is good news for the city.
“We don’t need radioactive materials coming into an urban environment,” she said.
Horkman said they are trying to locate at a landfill or closer to more drilling sites.
He said there is no health issues, or radiation concerns for employees or the public.
“The guy downstairs smoking a pack of cigarettes, on an annual basis will receive more dose than I will working around these tanks,” Horkman said.
Austin Master Services is currently operating under a temporary six-month authorization license. FrackFree Mahoning Valley has filed an appeal to the state oil and gas commission to try and have the permits revoked.