Killdeer company under investigationThe state Health Department has begun an investigation of a trucking company accused of dumping salty wastewater from oilfields on gravel roads in western North Dakota.
By: Associated Press, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK (AP) — The state Health Department has begun an investigation of a trucking company accused of dumping salty wastewater from oilfields on gravel roads in western North Dakota.
Dunn County officials accused Killdeer-based Wylie Bice Trucking Inc. of discharging the briny water last month near Manning. The company’s owner denied the charge Tuesday.
“That’s what they’re thinking, but they’re mistaken,” Wylie Bice said. “We put some fresh water down. It was just plumb fresh water.”
The trucking company hauls saltwater left over from oil production and fresh water used to fracture rock for oil recovery.
Bice said his drivers unload oilfield wastewater at approved disposal sites near Manning. His company sometimes splashes excess fresh water on gravel roads to keep dust down.
Dave Glatt, director of the state Health Department’s environmental health section, said soil samples from roads where the company allegedly dumped wastewater are being analyzed. No charges have been filed against the company, he said.
“We’re in the midst of an investigation on it,” Glatt said. “We’re just gathering information at this time.”
Neither Dunn County State’s Attorney Ross Sundeen nor Sheriff Don Rockvoy returned telephone calls seeking comment.
Dumping oilfield wastewater on North Dakota roads is nothing new. The state Transportation Department had used the wastewater, which is 10 times saltier than sea water, to melt ice and snow on roads since 1963. The state got the water free from oil companies which would have had to dispose of it otherwise.
The state stopped in February 2007 after The Associated Press reported on the practice. Some health officials had never heard of it before then.
The Health Department then conducted studies that determined the wastewater hadn’t harmed water or vegetation along roads. It later issued guidelines that allow state, county or city governments to use oil-well wastewater on roads if it is comparable to commercial road salt.
Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, has questioned the thoroughness of the state’s study.
“I don’t think they looked at all the effects the wastewater has on the environment,” Schafer said. He believes the state crafted wastewater rules to protect itself from legal action after doing it for decades with no regulations.
Bice said he hauls water for about 20 companies in the oil patch. He said he has lost some business since the allegations have surfaced.
Several other companies also haul wastewater on the roads his company is accused of spraying with the briny liquid, he said. And, he said, it seems hypocritical for the state to accuse him of dumping wastewater when the state has done it for decades.
“I’ve actually seen them do it,” he said.