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Belfield oil waste facility contested: Stark Co. zoning representatives receive petition opposing project

Stark County Zoning Commissioner Chuck Steffan stands in front of county commissioners during Tuesday's meeting at the courthouse in Dickinson, during which he expressed concerns regarding the construction of an oil waste facility near Belfield. Last week, the Stark County Zoning Commission gave Location Service Inc. the green light to build the facility.

A zoning commissioner thinks other Stark County representatives were too hasty in approving an oil waste facility near Belfield, and recommends the North Dakota Department of Health take a closer look at the project.

Zoning Commissioner Chuck Steffan, who lives near the building site, represented many of his neighbors when he presented Stark County commissioners with a petition opposing the project during Tuesday's meeting at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson. Steffan added that the petition included "at least 125" signatures, and he thinks county representatives should revisit the project.

"I'm concerned about what the state knows at this point in time and what we're being presented," Steffan said. "The zoning commission had limited information."

Luke Bross, chief operating officer for Location Service Inc., the company behind the project, said he needs backing from the county zoning board before the North Dakota Department of Health will even look at his project.

"We've gone as far as we can go. We've done all the reviews that we can do," Bross said.

With Belfield residents present, Steffan also brought up safety concerns related to the facility, which zoning commissioners approved last week.

Steffan said people are concerned about increased traffic and potential hazardous material that may harm the environment. He also wondered if the facility is beneficial for residents.

"I think the bottom line is, who benefits and who pays?" he asked. "There is really only one person who's going to benefit, and that is the landowner selling the land."

County Commission Chairman Ken Zander said many non-residents profit from the oil industry, but that does not mean the area does not need an oil waste facility.

Commissioner Russ Hoff agrees that the facility is needed, but also thinks more thought should be put into the process.

"It's our job to look after the safety and well-being of our Stark County citizens," Hoff said. "Not having this information in front of us with the state health department, that bothers me."

Tom Henning, Stark County state's attorney, reminded commissioners that Bross' hands are tied for now.

"(The Department of Health) does not intend to extend any effort in something that is not even approved by a local commission," he said.

Commissioner Jay Elkin said the zoning commission's responsibilities only go so far.

"We're trying to do something that's way beyond our expertise here," Elkin said. "We do not have any technical expertise on whether or not the site fits or meets requirements."

Zander agrees. He also said Bross has cooperated with the county and put a lot of effort and expense into meeting requirements.

Commissioners set a special meeting, which will be held April 17 at 10 a.m. at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson, during which they would like to hear what a state health representative has to say about the facility.

Steffan said he hopes commissioners will wait to make their decision.

"The project's going to be here for 20 years," he said. "The landfill waste is going to be here until the end of time. What's the rush?"