‘Significant’ Brine Spill in ND Lake

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 @ 05:05 PM gHale

A 63,000-gallon saltwater spill leaked from an underground pipeline last week and entered a lake via a tributary in northwest North Dakota, state officials said.

While state officials said spill will not affect any drinking water in the area, it remains unclear how much of the saltwater entered Smishek Lake near the town of Powers Lake, which is about 75 miles northeast of the oil boomtown Williston, said Water Quality Director Karl Rockeman. Saltwater, or brine, is an unwanted byproduct of oil production and the state considers it an environmental hazard. It is many times saltier than sea water and can easily kill vegetation.

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The most recent spill is “significant,” Rockeman said, but it still pales next to a massive pipeline spill in January that leaked nearly 3 million gallons of brine, some of which reached two creeks and the Missouri River. Officials have said cleanup of that spill from Summit Midstream Partners could take from several months to years.

“This (latest) one will take some time to get it addressed. This is a significant spill and it will take some work to get that cleaned up,” Rockeman said. The lake is not a source of drinking water, Rockeman said.

Oasis Petroleum, which owns and operates the pipeline, is responsible for cleaning up the spill and has been at the site along with crews from the state Department of Health and the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division.

Oasis said it found out about the leak from its North Cottonwood pipeline on Monday and by 4:30 p.m. had found the source of the leak and stopped the flow. There were no injuries in the incident.

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