Flooded well spills oil into river
TRENTON – Oil from one well has spilled into floodwaters near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, where the rising waters threaten a total of 38 oil wells.
North Dakota officials did an aerial inspection Friday and counted nine wells that are inundated with floodwaters, said Dennis Fewless, Director of the Division of Water Quality for the North Dakota Department of Health.
While most of the wells are surrounded with dikes that contained any potential releases, one oil well had a visible sheen coming off it Friday where oil was floating on top of the water, Fewless said.
The amount of oil that has been released is unknown. From the air, it appears that the release may have come from a tank that tipped over, but officials won’t know for sure until they can get on site, Fewless said.
Health officials are in contact with the owner of the well, Zavanna, about accessing it by boat to contain the release with booms, Fewless said.
The health department and the Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division plan to continue monitoring the flooding this weekend. A total of 38 wells have the potential to be flooded as a result of ice jams downstream from the well sites.
Oil companies started taking precautions this week in advance of the flooding, such as shutting in wells and moving equipment.
The Missouri River at Williston was at 26 feet Friday, considered to be major flood stage, said Todd Hamilton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
The forecast calls for the river to rise slightly to 26.5 feet before it starts going down toward the end of the weekend, Hamilton said.
However, there is potential for ice jams to occur on the Missouri River, which could cause the river level to fluctuate by 1 to 2 feet, he said.
The Yellowstone joins the Missouri River about 22 miles southwest of Williston near the Montana state line.
In that same area, the American Red Cross is assisting four families who have been displaced by flooding.
The Red Cross office in Minot will deploy a casework team to East Fairview today to meet with clients to provide food, clothing and lodging. East Fairview is an unincorporated community across the border from Fairview, Mont., near the Yellowstone River and about 40 miles west of Watford City.
Nine people stayed at a shelter set up in Fairview to assist people affected by flooding, said the Rev. Kelly Sloan of Fairview Alliance Church, which is providing space for the shelter.
The shelter is supported by the Montana Red Cross and Dakotas Region Red Cross. Requests for shelter must go through the Red Cross, Sloan said.
The families who were displaced were living in campers, said Jerry Samuelson, emergency manager for McKenzie County.
Red Cross case workers plan to meet with the families today to help them find long-term housing, which may be a challenge in the oil-impacted area, said Brian Shawn, communications officer for the Dakotas Region.
“Housing is obviously at a premium,” Shawn said.
The Red Cross also plans to keep shelter supplies in the area in the event of ice jams or additional flooding, Shawn said.