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N.D. tribe warns about oil filters

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) -- Potentially radioactive filters used in the oil industry are being illegally dumped in fields and garbage containers and along roads on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota, tribal officials say.

The filters used to screen fluids at oil wells look like small nets and might attract children and endanger their health, Edmund Baker, the Three Affiliated Tribes' top environmental official, told The Bismarck Tribune.

Baker issued a public notice Friday and said he plans to attend meetings around the reservation to educate residents about the danger. Some communities are isolated and not aware of oil field waste issues, he said.

North Dakota health rules prohibit the disposal of radioactive waste above a minimum level at any landfill in the state. Health and industry officials are studying the possibility of new waste management rules for disposal in specially permitted landfills.

Baker said he was alerted to the problem of illegal filter dumping when a tribal garbage delivery was stopped at a McKenzie County landfill and fined for attempting to bring in the filters. The drivers were unaware the filters were in their load, he said.

The tribe in late 2011 announced efforts to crack down on oil companies improperly disposing of waste on the reservation, which lies in the heart of the oil patch that has seen production boom in recent years. Those efforts included hefty fines for violators.

"This office is asking the communities to report any illegal activity regarding the dumping or the abandoning of these filters within our boundaries," Baker said.

The filters have been found throughout the reservation but particularly in the Mandaree area, he said.