Editorial: Oil and water don't mixRecent oil spills in Lake Sakakawea, near Dickinson and in a number of locations are eye openers.
Recent oil spills in Lake Sakakawea, near Dickinson and in a number of locations are eye openers.
These spills are small in comparison to what could be, but serve as a reminder to prepare. We can live without oil but we cannot live without water. One accident could be devastating.
It has taken more than a week to clean up what is considered a small leak outside of Dickinson — more than a week to recover less than 20 barrels shows the magnitude a “big” spill could create.
North Dakota Health Department geologist Kris Roberts said he visited about eight oil spill sites last week alone.
Some say water from snowmelt is running over fields and swamping well sites causing the recent spills.
It doesn’t matter what the cause, measures must be in place to take into account snowmelt and rain and drought and any other natural phenomena that could influence well sites, making them unstable.
Though oil is at the forefront, careful scrutiny must be made before extracting any resource, including coal and natural gas. Once it is taken out, it can’t be put back. And once the Earth has been twisted, turned and reworked, it will not be the same even with well-intentioned reclamation plans.
Immediate action has to be taken in any-size circumstance. Groundwater, streams and lakes must be protected. Are there emergency plans in case of natural disaster or any scenario?
There needs to be eyes from all levels on these operations: local, state and federal. Among their duties, local, state and Environmental Protection Agency leaders should work together and make sure there are enough inspectors. Bring them in before more oil wells come in.
Water samples should be taken often and from numerous locations. Chemicals used in fracking must be determined safe.
Out-of-the-way sites need to be visited and checked often. There are a number of sites off the beaten path that may seem like a task for an inspector to get to, but it would be a lot easier to take a bumpy drive and check for violations than send crews out for weeks cleaning up a mess.
Companies need to know violations are taken seriously. A $25,000 fine may not change the practice of multi-million dollar companies. We trust most working in this field look out for other precious resources besides the oil they discover and extract. But for those who would rather pay the fine than take the time to follow the rules, let’s make them think twice.
There are no three-strikes-you-are-out-rules.
The oil boom has already changed a way of life in western North Dakota — admittedly, some good and some bad.
Make sure the good outweighs the bad. It does no good to have wealth if you have no health, no water and have completely lost a comfortable way of living.
Publiser Harvey Brock and Editor Jennifer McBride make up The Press Editorial Board.