Oil spill in creek originally underestimated, making it one of largest in North Dakota history by Amy Dalrymple, March 23, 2017, The Bismark Tribune
This Dec. 10 photo by the North Dakota Department of Health shows an oil spill from the Belle Fourche Pipeline that was discovered Dec. 5 in Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary of the Little Missouri River, near Belfield. The spill is drawing a notice of violation against the company and is near yet another spill that was reported 3 miles away.
BELFIELD — An oil pipeline spill that contaminated a tributary of the Little Missouri River last December is now estimated to be three times larger than originally thought, making it one of the most significant pipeline spills in North Dakota history.
Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. reports about 12,615 barrels, or 529,830 gallons, of oil spilled as a result of a pipeline leak the company now believes started on Dec. 1 and was discovered by a landowner on Dec. 5, said spokeswoman Wendy Owen.
The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek about 16 miles northwest of Belfield.
An earlier estimate put the spill at 4,200 barrels, or 176,400 gallons, but was revised after the company was able to pinpoint when the spill started and review metering data, said Owen.
Cleanup crews continue to be on site, where traces of benzene have been detected throughout the creek, which flows into the Little Missouri River, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the state Department of Health.
An oil sheen has been detected in the creek but did not appear to reach the river, Suess said. Health officials continue to collect water samples from the creek and the river as they oversee cleanup efforts. The segment of pipeline was isolated and shut down.
The company estimates that 4,000 barrels, or 168,000 gallons, have been recovered through skimming operations.
Contractors also have performed 1,200 burns on top of the creek to recover oil, ranging from a few minutes to all-day operations, Suess said.
“We continue to work on the recovery and the cleanup. We will be there until this is finished,” Owen said.
Crews are focusing efforts on cleaning the 5½ miles of creek, which runs through privately owned land and U.S. Forest Service grazing land.
“They want to get that back into operation and healthy for cattle prior to the grazing season,” Suess said.
The spill did not affect human drinking water sources. The landowner reported losses of cattle he attributes to the spill, but he did not agree to medical testing to confirm the cause of death, Suess said.
The cause of the spill is still under investigation. The pipeline leak occurred in a hillside that is slumping, which is the company’s leading theory of what caused the break, Owen said. [Or copying Husky’s excuse for their pipeline leak into the North Saskatchewan River?]
Weather conditions and the instability of the rugged Badlands terrain have slowed cleanup efforts and prevented crews from doing much work in the hillside.
Some oil continues to discharge from the hillside into the tributary of Ash Coulee Creek, Suess said. Crews hope to do more analysis of the hillside in the next month, Suess said.
“At the very worst case, we think there’s about 20 percent of the volume remaining in the soil,” Owen said. [Enjoy benzene with your steak!]
The health department has issued a notice of violation for the spill, but has not yet proposed a fine.
The state Oil and Gas Division is investigating the cause and working with the health department and Attorney General’s Office to draft a letter to the company requiring that all evidence related to the spill and pipeline failure be preserved, said Kevin Connors, pipeline program supervisor.
In the past, regulators have had a difficult time accessing information about the root cause of major spills.
“We wanted to make sure that all evidence was retained for our investigations,” Connors said.
The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action order in late December. The Environmental Protection Agency also is monitoring cleanup.
The revised spill estimate makes the Belle Fourche Pipeline spill one of the largest in North Dakota’s record of tracking oil spills.
The largest oil pipeline spill on record is the 2013 Tesoro Logistics spill discovered in a farmer’s field near Tioga involving an estimated 20,600 barrels, or 865,200 gallons. That spill contaminated groundwater and cleanup efforts are ongoing.
The Belle Fourche spill is likely the largest oil pipeline spill that contaminated a water body in North Dakota, Suess said. The state also has had larger pipeline spills involving produced water, a waste byproduct of oil production.
Belle Fourche is part of True Companies of Wyoming, which also was responsible for the January 2015 Bridger Pipeline spill that involved 30,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River, contaminating the drinking supply for the city of Glendive, Mont. [Emphasis added]
North Dakota oil spill 3 times larger than first estimated by Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, March 24, 2017, Yahoo News
BISMARCK, N.D. — A December oil pipeline spill in western North Dakota might have been three times larger than first estimated and among the biggest in state history, a state environmental expert said Friday.
About 530,000 gallons of oil is now believed to have spilled from the Belle Fourche Pipeline that was likely ruptured by a slumping hillside about 16 miles northwest of Belfield in Billings County, Health Department environmental scientist Bill Seuss said. The earlier estimate was about 176,000 gallons.
No decision has been made on any fines against Wyoming-based True Cos., which operates the pipeline. The company says it is committed to cleaning up the spill and that the job is about 80 per cent done.
“There’s no timeline for completion, spokeswoman Wendy Owen said. “We will be there until it is” done.
A company’s efforts to clean up after an oil spill are a large factor in how much of a fine is levied, according to Seuss.
“We tend to hold off on those. It’s kind of a motivator,” he said.
The largest oil pipeline spill in North Dakota was 840,000 gallons, in a wheat field near Tioga in September 2013.
In the December spill, an unknown amount of oil flowed into Ash Coulee Creek, which feeds into the Little Missouri River, a tributary of the Missouri River. Seuss said no oil made it into those rivers or into any drinking water source, but that the focus is on cleaning up the creek before spring grazing season, since cattle drink from the waterway.
There have been no confirmed cases of livestock or wildlife deaths related to the spill. One rancher reported some cattle deaths but refused to allow the state veterinarian to do a necropsy, according to Seuss. Cleanup crews also found a dead beaver, but it’s not known what caused the death.
The pipeline had been leaking since being restarted Dec. 1 following routine maintenance, Seuss said. A landowner discovered the spill on Dec. 5.
There is still oil seeping out of the hillside but it’s being contained. Soil remediation work could take “a year or more,” Seuss said. [Emphasis added]
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