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Billings County saltwater spill cleanup proves to be a ‘logistical challenge’

BELFIELD – Cleanup of last week’s saltwater spill at a disposal well in Billings County is proving to be a “logistical challenge,” a state Health Department official said Monday.

Encore Energy Partners Operating LLC reported on Wednesday the spill of an estimated 150 barrels of saltwater, which is a byproduct of drilling for oil and gas.

A pipe on the disposal well pad sprung a leak, causing the 6,300-gallon spill, said Dennis Fewless, director of the Health Department’s division of water quality.

Some of the saltwater reached Blacktail Creek about 20 miles northwest of Belfield, but Fewless said no harm to aquatic species or threat to wildlife or livestock had been observed. The creek empties into the Little Missouri River about 13 miles away, he said.

Three beaver dams created a natural barrier to trap the saltwater, Fewless said, adding officials haven’t seen any beavers around the dams.

Encore Energy Partners continued to clean up the spill on Monday, but weather and topography were making the task more difficult, he said.

The company was using pumps to draw the brine 100 to 120 feet up a ravine into holding tanks, but some of the pumps were burning out because of the distance and others were freezing up, Fewless said. He said it was hard to estimate the length of cleanup.

“It’s been a logistical challenge for them, but they’re staying on it and will be at it until it gets done,” he said.

The spill happened on U.S. Forest Service land.

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