Spill leads to lake emergency preparednessOne month after an oil and saltwater spill flowed into Lake Sakakawea, officials said they are making efforts to be better prepared in the case of lake emergencies.
By: Sean M. Soehren, The Dickinson Press
One month after an oil and saltwater spill flowed into Lake Sakakawea, officials said they are making efforts to be better prepared in the case of lake emergencies.
On April 2 about 100 barrels of saltwater and five barrels of oil spilled about a mile from the reservoir after a Petro-Hunt LLC pipe ruptured and the substances trickled into the lake through a small creek, according to a previous Press article.
The spill was completely cleaned up quickly and there are no damages North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality Director Dennis Fewless said Tuesday from Bismarck. However, he said it was an eye-opener and precautions need to be made to prevent problems with future spills.
Fewless added that meetings are scheduled with state and federal agencies as well as representatives from the petroleum industry to workshop quick and responsive cleanup programs within the next month.
“As the number of wells increase with the increase of oil activity and the severe spring we have had, there are an endless number of scenarios to script,” he said. “We have to be flexible as new things pop up.”
A committee of oil well owners and pipeline company officials are working together to make boats and brooms readily available for cleanup in the area, North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness said.
“They are moving forward with agreements to ensure there is a lake response plan,” he said.
Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, said a response plan is vital, but keeping oil sites farther from the lake would be more beneficial. He said the risk is not worth the reward.
“Imagine if it was a large spill,” he said. “Look how many states and how many communities that would affect.”
The lake is a reservoir of the Missouri River basin and is the source for drinking water for most North Dakota counties west of the Missouri.
Onstad said he has seen oil sites only a quarter mile away from the lake and others that are in direct drainage areas of the waterway, which can pose dangers.
“We are flirting with disaster,” he said about oil site placement.
Fewless hoped the workshop meetings would come up with proactive solutions and said the frequency of meetings would be determined by need.
“We will continue to brainstorm as new and unanticipated situations arise,” he said. “We want to see if there are holes in the strategy.”
Committee Chairman Jack Braun, of Whiting Petroleum, did not return calls Tuesday.