Editorial: Illegal salt waste water disposal despicableYou can’t drink oil. The North Dakota Industrial Commission is calling for aggressive enforcement against an oil and gas operator accused of putting salt water in a waste well, a move that threatens area drinking water.
You can’t drink oil.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission is calling for aggressive enforcement against an oil and gas operator accused of putting salt water in a waste well, a move that threatens area drinking water.
Aggressive enforcement to one entity may mean something different to another. A $1.5 million fine (which the company faces) would put any small business owner under. A $1.5 million fine for a company like Halek Operating ND LLC may be a slap on the wrist. We don’t know.
We do know this isn’t the first time the company has shown disgusting disregard for safety.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission filed the latest civil complaint against Halek in Burleigh County District Court.
A criminal complaint filed in Stark County charges Nathan Garber, president of Executive Drilling LLC, with a Class C felony. The case alleges that Garber knowingly violated Industrial Commission rules by directing employees of another company to modify the dump site to deceive inspectors, thus tripling the rise of contaminating a drinking water zone with the well.
Executive Drilling is related to Halek, but officials are unclear how, they say.
The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If found guilty, Garber or anybody else who participated in this egregious act, needs to sit in jail and never be allowed to work in the oil sector again — ever.
Maybe round two of Halek’s rule-breaking comes from lax consequences in the situation a few years ago when Halek found itself facing fines. Halek was fined for an alleged improper cleanup of an oil leak near Dickinson in April 2011.
The containment system they deployed was inadequate and allowed pit fluids to flow toward Patterson Lake, Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources said at the time.
The company faced more than $588,000 in fines, but was ordered to pay less than 10 percent of that with the rest suspended. Halek also paid a $20,000 cash bond in case future contamination showed up, Helms said, adding response time and lack of follow up was also a concern.
The most recent act was allegedly done in the middle of the night in a cover-up operation that didn’t work.
If an operator made a mistake, that’s one thing, but if they knew about it and hid it, that’s another.
This is a black eye to the entire oil-drilling community.
It appears the majority of companies are following the rules and some are even taking extra steps to ensure environmental safety.
Unlawful behavior like Haluk’s needs to be discouraged. Some companies need babysitting and fines and enforcement to make that work. It’s unfortunate companies will risk safety to save money.
It goes without saying that water is priceless and irreplaceable.
There should be no leniency this time around.
The state has standards that must be kept. The industry should encourage its workers to turn in companies that are not meeting these levels. Communities need to support companies that are upholding and going beyond.
The melting pot of the industry and community has its differences but it works, for now.
If cases like these keep coming up, there’s a good chance the public and the Patch will have a relationship as segregated as oil and water.
Publisher Harvey Brock and Editor Jennifer McBride are on The Press Editorial Board. Email letters to the editor to email@example.com. Include your name and phone number (for verification).