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Landowners' donation seeks to protect land from brine contamination

Antler residents Christine and Daryl Peterson, seated left, met with the Northwest Landowners Association and donated $250,000 to the organization's foundation for brine spill cleanup education. Also shown are Troy Coons, chairman, Amy Shelton, executive director, Dave King, vice chairman. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK -- Northern North Dakota landowners with a history of oil-related spills on their land have donated $250,000 to promote education about cleaning up brine spills.

Daryl and Christine Peterson made the contribution this week to the Northwest Landowners Association Foundation. The Bottineau County couple said they want to bring more attention to what options landowners have when dealing with contamination from produced water or brine, a waste byproduct of oil production.

“Saltwater brine is almost the death of the land,” said Daryl Peterson. “It’s so difficult to clean it up.”

The couple owns farmland near Antler, about 50 miles north of Minot, in an area that has both older and new oil wells. They emphasize they support oil production, but want to promote responsible development and brine spill accountability.

“The biggest issue is spills may have not been accurately reported and sometimes not reported at all,” Daryl Peterson said.

The Northwest Landowners Association Foundation seeks to educate the public “to maintain a balance between individual property rights and resource development in a responsible manner.”

Troy Coons, chairman of the association, said the donation will help the group sponsor educational outreach events, such as a recent series of brine spill talks the group organized that connected landowners with experts.

Daryl Peterson said many landowners in his area know they have issues with brine contamination, but are unsure how to address it.

“We want to reach out to landowners that may have problems and help identify them and maybe even help them do some testing to verify that it’s there,” he said.

The Petersons are among the original members of the Northwest Landowners Association, an independent landowner group that formed in 2007 and lobbies on behalf of its members.

“We feel the land is important. They don’t make more of it,” Christine Peterson said.

Vice Chairman Dave King said the contribution also will allow the foundation to apply for other grants that require matching funds.

“One of my hopes is that following our lead that others might recognize the issue and the value in protecting and cleaning up our land,” Daryl Peterson said.

Daryl and Christine Peterson filed a lawsuit in 2016 against oil company Petro Harvester, alleging the company was responsible for 10 saltwater spills on their land since 2011. The lawsuit was recently settled, but terms of the settlement were not publicly disclosed.

“We’ve been at this a long time with our battles with saltwater and also have a genuine interest in protecting our precious land in western North Dakota,” Daryl Peterson said.