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Explosion at saltwater tank causes fire, spills; Man suffers heart attack while responding

A tank explosion caused a fire at a saltwater disposal facility near Alexander on Thursday. An estimated 2,440 barrels of saltwater and 270 barrels of oil spilled at the site. Photo courtesy of McKenzie County Emergency Management

ALEXANDER – A saltwater tank exploded near here Thursday causing several tanks to catch fire and spill about 2,700 barrels of saltwater and oil, the North Dakota Department of Health said.

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The tank explosion at a disposal well site about 8 miles southwest of Alexander was reported about 12:15 p.m. Thursday, said McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson.

The explosion, which occurred after a truck driver unloaded and was leaving the site, caused a total of 13 tanks to catch fire, Samuelson said. The cause of the explosion is unknown, Samuelson said.

The facility, operated by Mesa Oil Services, had an estimated 2,440 barrels of saltwater and 270 barrels of oil on site at the time of the fire, said the North Dakota Department of Health.

Kris Roberts, with the department’s Division of Water Quality, inspected the site Thursday and said the spill was contained on location.

The fire was extinguished by about 4:30 p.m., Roberts said. Most of the oil burned in the fire, he said. A significant amount of saltwater remained Thursday with a thin film of oil floating on the water, he said.

An environmental contractor was on site and the liquid was expected to be recovered within hours, Roberts said.

The Alexander Fire Department responded and the truck driver who was on the site when the explosion occurred offered to get more water to extinguish the fire, Samuelson said. While the truck driver was heading back, he suffered a suspected heart attack, Samuelson said.

The man was taken to the hospital in Williston, Samuelson said. The man’s name and his condition were not available.

No other injuries were reported, Samuelson said.