Another toxic pipeline spill has occurred in western North Dakota, just three miles away from the site of a major oil spill that released 176,000 gallons of crude oil into Ash Coulee Creek near Belfield, North Dakota, in December and about 150 miles from where the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies are protesting development of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
According to Forum News Service, a broken White Rock Oil and Gas flow line running from an oil well to a nearby treatment unit ruptured and released about 280 barrels of toxic salt water and 20 barrels of oil into Franks Creek. The spill was discovered Monday, Jan. 30, shortly after it erupted.
A Canadian company that specializes in cold water oil spills had workers cleaning up the nearby Ash Coulee spill, so those workers were sent to the second spill site to launch immediate remediation efforts.
The company was using vacuum trucks to remove the toxic wastewater from a half mile of Franks Creek. Workers also constructed a dam to prevent the wastewater from spreading further.
Salty water, churned up with oil in the drilling and extraction processes, can permeate soil more easily and can be much more toxic than an oil spill to the environment, especially when it occurs on land or near bodies of fresh water.
Spilled brine, which is 10 times saltier than sea water, can ruin soil chemistry and severely contaminate underlying aquifers that provide groundwater. The harmful effects of salt water spills linger much longer than spilled oil, which eventually becomes degraded by bacteria.
Salt can be flushed out or at least diluted with fresh water, but that process can take up to 10 years to effectively complete. Complete removal of contaminated soil and groundwater is generally the goal for remediation in brine spills.
North Dakota State Health Department spill investigator Bill Suess told Forum News Service that cleanup workers are flushing and pumping the Franks Creek spill site.
Cleanup operations of the Ash Coulee Creek spill will continue for some time as well. That spill occurred because a broken leak detector failed to detect a break in a six-inch underground line owned by Belle Fourche Pipeline. Cleanup crews conducted a major burn of oil deposits in the creek and continue to burn smaller pockets of oil.