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Montana man vies for oil waste site

After Montana officials shut down an oil production waste facility in Baker, Mont., the proprietor is vying to open a similar operation in Bowman County.

For the past three years, the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Waste Management, has been working with Dale Leivestad of Baker, Mont., owner of Petrocomp, a division of D&M Water Service, Inc., in drafting a permit for an oil exploration and production waste facility, said Steve Tillotson, assistant director of the NDDH waste management division.

To address any comments or concerns about the drafted permit, a public informational meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on March 4 at Bowman City Hall, with a public hearing to follow at 7 p.m.

With three of its kind near Williston, the facility would treat and dispose of oil field exploration and production waste in a small upland location in the Badlands, about 14 miles south of Marmarth.

Tillotson said Leivestad's facility would include a treatment area, a disposal cell and surface pile to catch any contaminated water.

To remove oil and water from the waste, Tillotson said a centrifuge process would be used.

"He'd be hauling stuff from his centrifuge in Baker into North Dakota," Tillotson said.

The oil could then be sold and the water re-injected into an oil well.

Remaining waste would be added to a compost pile.

However, state officials are taking precautions by drafting a permit with additional requirements in lieu of previous issues in Montana.

The NDDH can approve a permit for less than 20 acres that would be valid for 10 years, but the department wants to proceed slowly.

"Given this is a new operation and he had some issues in Montana, we want to make sure he's tracking," Tillotson said. "We thought a three-year permit sounded fairly reasonable."

The draft permit would require monthly reports and inspections.

"The draft permit has a lot of conditions that he would have to do in the future if he's going to keep it going," Tillotson said. "We want to keep a close eye on things and make sure he does do the right job ... and that's why we have conditions."

Rick Thompson, was management section supervisor for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said Leivestad's Montana location did not require a state permit since it was located at a city landfill and followed the landfill's operation plans.

However, after failure to follow regulations, the facility was shut down.

"They fell out of bounds with their operation and maintenance plan," said Thompson. "They were doing things not according to what they were allowed to do at the time."

Thompson said infractions included spillage, leakage, failure to complete required testing, inadequate runoff controls, usage of excessive levels of oily waste and not combining the waste with compost prior to bringing it on site.

"Those things were written as violations to the landfill owner operators, which is Fallon County," Thompson said.

Fallon County, where Baker is located, later "withdrew their welcome for that facility on the site," Thompson said.

The facility then closed.

After the closure, Fallon County had to conduct a clean-up of the site.

Tom Barth, manager of the Baker landfill, said while the disposal process can be very effective, it was poorly managed.

Barth said he doesn't think the area's groundwater will experience any lasting effects as Leivestad's operation went down 900 feet and the nearest groundwater at the landfill is at 10,000 feet.

Barth said it took about a year and a half from the time Montana DEQ shut down Leivestad's operation to the time the mess was cleaned up, with clean-up alone taking four months.

"By the time all was said and done, Fallon County spent $196,000 to clean it up and we lost probably 10 acres of landfill space," Barth said.

A call to Leivestad went unreturned Wednesday.

Mike Sonsalla, a Slope County Commissioner who lives in Marmarth, was unavailable for comment.