Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

What Happens to Asbestos Drilling Mud After the Fact?

May 8, 2013

Santa Barbara, CA The health effects of drilling mud have long been the basis of research and conjecture, as well as litigation. Workers toiling on oil rigs within close proximity to drilling mud that allegedly contained asbestos, either recently or years previous, have remained concerned over the potential for long-term health effects. Many workers have taken ill with asbestosis and filed a drilling mud lawsuit. Some plaintiffs have not lived to see the outcome of their trials.

Up to now the focus has been on what happens when the drilling mud is mixed and utilized by a mud engineer on site. However, few questions have been asked with regard to what happens to the problematic mud after the fact.

Where does oil drilling mud go?

A hint to such an answer was recently revealed by LawyersandSettlements writer Jane Mundy, in a recent interview with a truck driver who fears future health issues due to his work with used drilling mud.

According to the interview, used oil drilling mud is mixed with earth, presumably in an effort to dilute the asbestos toxicity of the mud. The mixture, according to a trucker named Austin, is then used for landfill.

“My job was to take the asbestos drilling mud that came out of the drilling rigs and mix it with dirt and stockpile it in a huge designated area,” Austin told Jane Mundy. “There were three pits where the wet mud was dumped. I would take the drilling mud and mix it with fresh dirt and existing mix (meaning mud and dirt). This mix was eventually used for land fill.”

The next question has to be, just where is that fill destined? The question wasn’t answered, but perhaps should be. If used asbestos drilling mud is recycled as a component of landfill, just where does it wind up? At the city dump? As fill in industrial applications?

Fill for subdivisions? Sometimes, if residential homes or subdivisions are planned for areas that are historically wet, fill is brought in to augment the existing soil to help with drainage issues.

Is a resident, digging down to start some fence posts, taking his life in his hands if fill containing used drilling mud lurks below the sod on his property? Is this, effectively, a transfer of the drilling mud problem from the oil rig to the residential neighborhood?

Austin, the trucker, told writer Jane Mundy that he developed a rash after working with the earth and used oil drilling mud mixture that still contains the problematic drilling mud additives. Austin is concerned over the long-term health risks and told Mundy he is contemplating a drilling mud lawsuit. It can take years for asbestosis and mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos, to emerge - sometimes decades.

Little has been written about the risks associated with drilling mud chemicals after the fact.

If a drilling mud system involves disposal of the used drilling mud, where does the drilling mud go? How is it disposed of and where? Writer Jane Mundy and Austin the trucker provide a hint. However, further dialogue to determine the potential for health risks after the fact might go a long way in mitigating grievous health issues amongst unsuspecting Americans thousands of miles away from the nearest oil well and fresh oil well drilling mud.