On June 10, 2018, a Dunn County man caught a truck driver red-handed, dumping saltwater on his land.
What remains is an ugly crater in the midst of gentle rolling grassland outside of Dunn Center.
KX News let him explain what happened on that day in June.
“We were checking crops and cattle, and we caught a guy illegally dumping some flowback water, which happened to be Marathon’s water, and this is what we got left after two years,” said rancher Shane Dolezal.
That driver was George Baker Jr., a truck driver for SBT incorporated. Baker told police he was “sick of waiting for trucks to unload at the saltwater disposal” in Halliday and waiting in line was costing him money.
Instead, he elected to randomly pick Dolezal’s land to unload.
SBT was ordered to clean up the 100 barrels of saltwater, and at first, they were cooperative, but documents obtained by KX News show the company hasn’t been on site since June 18 of 2019, and Dolezal has taken notice.
“Those piles there, that’s all contaminated material. Well, it’s sitting there leaching, going everywhere. They haven’t hauled anything out and they just decided in July of last year, they were gonna wash their hands of it and I haven’t seen anybody since,” said Dolezal.
SBT tells KX News the reasons for the gap in action at the site is the fact they fired the original contractor hired to do the cleanup and hired another one. But every day that ticks by is costing Dolezal money — money he says he is owed back.
“I need something. I haven’t been able to use it for two years, can’t put cattle in here, and I’ve been in a drought for four years. This is my fourth year of drought, so I’ve got 320 acres here that I can’t use. And I asked them to fence it and you can see the fence,” said Dolezal.
The lack of activity has also recently caught the eye of the Department of Environmental Quality which slapped SBT with an administrative complaint demanding some action. Karl Rockeman is the Water Quality Division Director and says they want the land fixed soon.
“We are committed to using whatever we can to make sure that that happens and it’s taken longer than we would have liked and I know it’s taken longer than the landowner would have liked but we are continuing to peruse it and our goal is to get to that endpoint where the site is back to where it was before the spill,” said Rockeman.
KX News spoke with SBT President Ira Smith on the phone and they told us they have not forgotten about this project, and that they hope to have crews back out here by the end of the month to start removing the excess water and begin testing. And if all goes according to plan, they hope to have everything cleaned up by the end of July. And the clock is ticking because if the DEQ isn’t satisfied, SBT could be facing fines of upwards of $2 million.
Dolezal tells KX News he does have an attorney but wants to wait until the work is complete before deciding on any further legal action.