When you’re a reporter, you take your work home with you. This is especially true for me in North Dakota: When I go away for the weekend, it’s to a cabin in the Badlands that’s surrounded by drilling rigs. When I go biking, it’s with people whose boyfriends work for oil companies. So coming home to find radioactive oilfield waste in my spare bedroom wasn’t that out of the ordinary.
My boyfriend, Andy, is a photojournalist. He covers the same oilfield stories that I do. And in the news recently was North Dakota’s effort to revise its rules on what kinds of radioactive oilfield waste can be buried in state landfills. Andy was assigned to take photos for this story, so naturally he set off to find an example of this waste: a filter sock.
Filter socks look like a cross between a butterfly net and a large condom. They’re used to filter the wastewater that comes out of oil wells before it gets injected back underground (watch this video for a good explanation of what they do and how they become radioactive). And a few weeks ago, there was one dangling on a thread from the ceiling of my spare bedroom when I came home. Andy was taking studio portraits of it.
He put it outside as soon as he was done, but the room stank like diesel. So I lit a candle, and got on with the evening.