Posted 7/15/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
Imagine a swimming pool the size of a football field and 10 feet deep. Fill it with saltwater. It would take nearly one million gallons of saltwater to fill it.
That’s how much saltwater, a byproduct of oil and gas production that is up to 30 times saltier than seawater, leaked into the soil from an underground pipeline near Mandaree, N.D. It was discovered late last week. Arrow Pipeline LLC owns the pipeline.
Although the spill is within McKenzie County, it is on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation land.
“We are able to assist in any way that we can,” said Karolin Rockvoy, McKenzie County Emergency manager. “The Tribe is very particular about their land. So our hands have been tied and they are facilitating the cleanup. But we are here if they need us.”
For nearly two miles, the brine leached down a steep ravine. And for 200 yards extending from the source of the spill, vegetation, trees, brush and grass have been killed off. This did not happen overnight, Rockvoy said.
“They will be cleaning this up for months,” Rockvoy said. “A saltwater spill is worse than an oil spill because it sterilizes the ground.”
She said after assessing the situation, it was evident that the spill went undetected for some time.
It wasn’t until the company was evaluating their production loss reports that they noticed a glitch, thus leading them to find the spill. Some companies are equipped with a system that sends an alert when there is a leak. But not in this case.
Crestwood Midstream Partners Inc., a subsidiary of Arrow Pipeline, reported that a separation in the pipe seems to be the cause of the spill.
The company cannot pinpoint the exact date that the spill began. But they are reporting that the leak likely began during the first weekend of July.
If that is correct, one million gallons of saltwater were released into the soil over the course of roughly a week and a half.
The steep Badlands near the spill have forced clean-up crews to carry in equipment by hand.
Claryca Mandan, a natural resource administrator for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes’ Natural Resource Department, indicated that this is one of the worst places that a spill could have occurred.
Because the pipeline was atop a bluff, the saltwater naturally ran downhill - leading it in the direction of Bear Den Bay, which then goes into Lake Sakakawea. The reservation is provided drinking water from this lake.
After an assessment was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, it was determined that the spill had not affected the lake water.
Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall said they have a berm and a dike around the bay area to keep it from going into Lake Sakakawea.
With the increase in oil production, there are bound to be some spills here and there.