1 Million Gallons Of Fracking Brine Spill Near Reservation Water Supply


View of the Four Bears Bridge, Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia.)

Roughly one million gallons of fracking brine have spilled in Mandaree, N.D., presumably over the 4th of July weekend, according to Crestwood Midstream Partners Inc. Vice President Miranda Jones, Thursday.

Fracking brine, for readers just becoming aware, is the much toxic, sometimes radioactive, always unwanted byproduct of the fracking process. It’s the sludge left once the job’s done, and it’s laced with all sorts of mystery toxins the public is not allowed to know anything about. The fracking process also renders the water in the solution so toxic that it is unusable for thousands of years, essentially wiping it out of use indefinitely as far as man is concerned. Just the salt levels alone — 10 to 30 times higher than natural saltwater — has prompted the state to regard it as an environmental hazard. Unfortunately though, the industry doesn’t know what to do with any of it, so they simply store it in large wells and pools, transporting it from drill sites to storage sites through pipelines, which is how this latest mess got started.

Stemming from an underground pipeline, a path of fracking brine curiously referred to by AP and the Huffington Post as harmless old “saltwater” spilled two miles down a steep ravine in the badlands, complicating recovery and cleanup efforts. McKenzie County emergency manager Karolin Rockvoy stated that she felt the spill had proceeded undetected for some time, judging by vegetation in the area, but Vice President Jones was quick to stress that vegetation had only been killed within 200 yards of the source.

Jones went on to say that the spill looks to have been caused due to a pipe separating, which is a nicer way of saying their junk simply fell apart. Readers can file complaints with owners Arrow Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of Crestwood. Had they equipped the pipeline with an alarm system they would know when the leak began. Instead, it took the company to notice through lost production reports before enough attention was garnered to give the pipeline a gander.

And now, due to the difficult nature of the terrain, cleanup crews are forced to carry equipment down the ravine by hand. One can only imagine how difficult it must be to navigate such topography carrying all those paper towels they’re so fond of using.

While Crestwood works to minimize coverage and damage estimates, the natural resources administrator for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes’ natural resources department Claryca Mandan said the spill site is “one of the worst places it could have happened,” because the pipeline stands at the top of a bluff. To make matters worse, if the brine is not contained it could reach nearby Bear Den Bay, which leads into Lake Sakakawea, currently supplying the Fort Berthold reservation’s drinking water — smack dab in the middle of North Dakota’s oil rush.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a gander Thursday to make sure the lake had not been breached. Shortly thereafter, it stated that no known reports had surfaced indicating contamination of Bear Den Bay. Furthermore, the EPA put the public at ease by stating that a majority of the spill could be found in pools collected on the ground and behind beaver dams. Most everything else, they surmised, must have been absorbed by the soil.

And that’s the good news?

Nonetheless, cleanup efforts will be ongoing for weeks around the reservation, according to Jones. Though the EPA stated they have not fully concluded their assessment of the spill, both company and tribal officials are preaching hard that the spill has been contained and has not affected the lake.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall stated:

“We have a berm and a dike around it, around that bay area to keep it from going into the lake.”

And why, one may ask, for the love of all that’s sacred, would tribal officials collude with an oil company nearly responsible for poisoning their water supply through negligence? (And let’s face it, the jury is still out on that one … ) Knowing that the Fort Berthold reservation holds a critical stake in North Dakota’s oil boom helps put that into a bit more perspective. It’s the second highest producer in the country, gushing over a third of the state’s daily one million barrels of oil production. That’s according to the Department of Mineral Resources.

Sadly, such spills as this are only growing in number along with the ever-expanding oil industry, and with nothing to do but pipe it to a storage well, folks can’t really expect anything to change anytime soon. North Dakota created 25.5 million barrels of toxic fracking brine in 2012 alone. It will be telling to see how much that number has gone up over 2013.

It is becoming easier and more tempting to say these days, “Another day, another fraccident,” but we mustn’t; it’s too important for that. Clean water is too vital an issue. Each and every negligent disaster must be exposed, examined, prosecuted, eliminated. Let’s see that great business ingenuity folks are always hearing about flex in another direction and create methods for living, for fulfilling the ultimately banal assortments of desires that yield supply and demand, through methods that no longer contaminate, kill, destroy — the economic, environmental and social impacts of living healthy and harmoniously with our communities and environment versus what you see before you today, unfolding like a million-gallon, two-mile spill of fracking waste.

H/T Huffington Post.