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Energy & Environment

Oil spill near Tioga may be largest spill in state history

the state Health Department is currently assessing and cleaning up a big oil spill near Tioga.

A pipeline owned by Tesoro leaked 20,600 barrels of crude in a wheat field about 9 miles northeast of Tioga. It covers an area the size of about seven football fields. A farmer harvesting wheat discovered the spill September 29th.  Tesoro said it's about 865,000 gallons of oil. That's enough to fill 27 railroad tanker cars, or an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

A Tesoro subsidiary --Tesoro Logistics -- operates the pipeline, which carries crude oil to a rail loading facility near Columbus, North Dakota.

The spill was discovered by Steve Jensen. He was combining wheat, and smelled the oil. A day later, he discovered the leak.

"The good news is, it's in an area that does not appear to offer any immediate threat to public safety, or water supply, or to any sensitive things," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. He says the state Health Department has the leak contained, and is working hard to get it cleaned up.

Dalrymple said he was told about the leak Wednesday. And he says this incident begs some questions.

"We want to learn more facts about how it happened," said Dalrymple. "We're very interested in knowing how it was detected, and of course, could it have been detected earlier. Those are questions we'll be asking."

Jensen says he's been told it could take up to three years to clean up the spill. Jensen called it "negligence" on Tesoro's part.

The company estimates the cost of the clean-up at $4 million.

Dale Wetzel of the Great Plains Examiner and Don Haney of KFGO radio in Fargo contributed to this story.

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