Saltwater spill reported near Williston | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Saltwater spill reported near Williston

Mar 8, 2016

An oil company with a track record of spills has had another big one -- a large saltwater spill at an oil well pad outside of Williston. As Prairie Public’s Emily Guerin reports, it’s the 12th largest saltwater spill since the Bakken oil boom began.

Around 114,000 gallons of saltwater ran into a dry creekbed after breaching the berm on a well pad. The spill was likely caused by a broken valve on a pipeline, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Zavanna LLC owns the well pad and discovered the spill on Sunday morning. By then, most of the saltwater had leached into the ground.

“It looks like it hit that sandy soil and just soaked right in.”

Bill Suess  is with the Department of Health, and he says they are still trying to figure out if the spill impacted groundwater or nearby drinking wells.

Saltwater -- also known as produced water or wastewater -- is a byproduct of drilling for oil. It’s much saltier than ocean water and contains fracking chemicals, oil and radioactive material. It can leave farmland sterile for decades.

Zavanna LLC has had 55 oilfield spills since 2012 -- including a spill in spring 2014 when one of the company’s wells was swamped by rising Missouri River floodwaters, spilling 60,000 gallons of oil into the river.

So far this year, there have been 64 oilfield spills in North Dakota that left the well pad and impacted the environment -- approximately one a day.