Landowners Concerned About Saltwater Spills - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Landowners Concerned About Saltwater Spills

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The state's biggest-ever oil spill near Tioga continues to be cleaned up.

An estimated 20,600 barrels of crude oil leaked from a Tesoro pipeline last month, leading to the cleanup effort.

Meanwhile, a group of landowners is trying to put the focus on another kind of spill related to the oil industry - saltwater spills.

Jim Olson was near the Canadian border Friday, touring saltwater spill sites both old and new.

(Myron Hanson, Northwest Landowners Association) "Saltwater is a way more toxic substance to productive farm and ranch land than oil."

That's how the president of the Northwest Landowners Association gets your attention. But when he points out that there is much more saltwater produced by an oil well than oil - as much as ten barrels of saltwater to every barrel of crude - it makes quite an impact.

(Myron Hanson, Northwest Landowners Association) "It has to be injected back into the ground to be disposed of."

That's right, all of that wastewater that's highly salty must be injected into the earth - there are thousands of injection wells - like this one - doing that around the state . But that means there are thousands of tiny pipelines connecting wells with saltwater storage tanks and injection pumps -- a network of connections and aging pipes that can fail anytime.

(Myron Hanson, Northwest Landowners Association) "There isn't any monitoring."

The group Hanson leads - the Northwest Landowners Association - is pushing for tighter state regulations on the collection, movement, and disposal of what the oil industry calls production water - the salty mixture that caused this mess southwest of Portal this summer.

(Pete Artz, Bottineau County Farmer) "A lot of things concern me about this break."

Pete Artz farms and ranches right next door to the spill that was discovered in August and may have been going on as a slow leak for months. He belongs to the landowners group and says the kind of state oversight the group proposed in the last legislative session would have identified a leak like this long before it had soiled - ruined really - this large an area.

(Pete Artz, Bottineau County Farmer) "We lobbied to get some rules changed to put some meters on the outgoing and incoming to these injection wells but we got shot down."

(Myron Hanson, Northwest Landowners Association) "We feel it's imperative that rules be developed for the control and monitoring of these injection lines."

The monitors would likely have also caught this spill in 2011 a few miles to the southwest of the Antler-area spill.

(Darwin Peterson, Bottineau County Farmer) "Something should have been done a lot quicker."

Darwin Peterson used to farm the land here and says now it's out of production for as long as he can foresee.

(Darwin Peterson, Bottineau County Farmer) "It's pretty well just annihilated."

Peterson, Artz, Hanson, and others say they'll continue their push to head off future saltwater spills - even as they continue to support the growth of the oil industry. They say the 1950s technology used in saltwater injection needs to catch up with the 2013 technology being used to turn North Dakota into an oil powerhouse. Near Antler, Jim Olson, KX News.

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