North Dakota Turns Blind Eye to Dumping of Fracking Waste in Waterways and Farmland, Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands by Nicholas Kusnetz, June 8, 2012, ProPublica
Oil drilling has sparked a frenzied prosperity in Jeff Keller’s formerly quiet corner of western North Dakota in recent years, bringing an infusion of jobs and reviving moribund local businesses. But Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, has seen a more ominous effect of the boom, too: Oil companies are spilling and dumping drilling waste onto the region’s land and into its waterways with increasing regularity. According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally. State officials say most of the releases are small. But in several cases, spills turned out to be far larger than initially thought, totaling millions of gallons. Releases of brine, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands and sterilized farmland. The effects on land can last for years, or even decades. Compounding such problems, state regulators have often been unable — or unwilling — to compel energy companies to clean up their mess, our reporting showed. … Keller has filed several complaints with the state during this time span after observing trucks dumping wastewater and spotting evidence of a spill in a field near his home. He was rebuffed or ignored every time, he said. “There’s no enforcement,” said Keller, 50, an avid outdoorsman who has spent his career managing Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir created by damming the Missouri River. “None.” … Kris Roberts, who responds to spills for the Health Department, which protects state waters, agreed, but acknowledged that the state does not have the manpower to prevent or respond to illegal dumping. “It’s happening often enough that we see it as a significant problem,” he said. “What’s the solution? Catching them. What’s the problem? Catching them.” … Last July, when he saw signs of a spill near his home, Keller notified the Health Department and sent pictures showing a trail of dead grass to an acquaintance at the EPA regional office in Denver. The brown swath led from a well site into a creek. If the spills continued, he warned the EPA in an email, they could “kill off the entire watershed.” EPA officials said they spoke with Keller, but did not follow up on the incident beyond that. The state never responded, Keller said. The site remained untested and was never cleaned up. “There was no restoration work whatsoever,” Keller said.
[Refer also to ‘Fracking brine’ Gas-well waste full of radium and Leaking pipeline soaks field and Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes, Allan Shipman was found guilty of illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater. But he’s part of a much bigger problem ]