Health Dept. looking at when oil spill information is released through the media

Nov 1, 2013

The chief of the state Health Department’s environmental health section says his department is working on ways to let the public know about oil spills and other hazardous material incidents.

David Glatt says in the aftermath of the report of a big oil leak near Tioga, his department is working on having all spills listed on a Website – where the public can access that information. But Glatt told the Legislature’s interim Energy Development and Transportation Committee – the Department is also looking at a threshold – where a spill can be immediately reported to the public through the news media.

"Looking at such things as -- is it impacting public health," Glatt told the Committee. "Are homes at risk? Are people being evacuated? Has it impacted waters of the state? We're also looking at a threshold quantity that would go out to the press."

The leak in Tioga was not reported for several days. And State Sen. Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) says she understands the Health Department was doing its job, to concentrate on the clean-up.

"My point, though, is that it has to be someone's job to tell the public," said Triplett. She says it appears the Governor’s office wasn’t told for several days. She called that an “embarrassment.”