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Oil waste permit up for Billings County approval

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Oil waste permit up for Billings County approval
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

MEDORA -- Between 80 and 100 acres of land off of Highway 85 north of Fairfield could be used for an oil and gas waste disposal site in about a year if local and state officials approve, John McCain, vice president and senior engineer of Carlson McCain, said during a Billings County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday at the Courthouse.

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Waste pits in North Dakota face stricter rules beginning April 1.

"The on-site reserve pits will largely be a thing of the past," McCain said.

Though the proposed site is about 80 to 100 acres, it would be developed in phases with an approximate 10-acre cell built every two to three years, or as needed.

McCain said waste includes soil with oil in it from exploration, production and spills.

Commissioner Anita Kessel cast the sole vote against the permit. She said after the meeting that she received about five calls from residents opposed to it. "It's the runoff and monitoring of the site and increased traffic."

Kessel said the property is about a half-mile from Forest Service land and she is also concerned about possible runoff into Magpie Creek.

These landfills face strict rules, McCain said, adding that in the 20-plus years he has worked with these sites he has not seen a problem. Rules do not allow liquids and, among other contingencies, they are built with plastic and clay liners. Top soil is removed before the landfills are dug and the pits are capped afterwards.

"Once the facility is full and closed it can be returned to agriculture," McCain said.

Property owner Allan Thompson visited a similar site near Marmarth and said he was impressed.

"It's kind of a negative thing, but it's better than a thousand little landfills," he said.

McCain said there is some radioactivity in the waste, and the state limit is 5 picocuries per gram.

Commissioner Don Heiser said the plan is better than what's out there now for oil-site waste.

"I kind of have a problem telling people what they can do on their own land," he added.

Thompson raises cows on the site. He joked, "The bathtub is leakier than those landfills."

To proceed, the Billings County Commission will need to OK the permit at its meeting Wednesday. The meeting is at 9 a.m., but the issue will be brought forth at about 10 a.m. If approved, it will go to the state Health Department for review.

The area and plan face much scrutiny and many tests, and the company must put down between $800,000 and $1 million for financial assurance that the area will be taken care of. The company also must monitor the site for 30 years after it closes, McCain said.

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