TWIN BUTTES, N.D.—A newly reported oil fluid spill in the the western North Dakota Badlands is located close as the crow flies to an earlier massive spill that will remain under clean up until spring.
Even while a Canadian company specializing in cleaning cold water oil spills had been working to rectify a 4,200-barrel oil spill into Ash Coulee Creek, its workers were deployed to a second spill of 300 barrels of primarily toxic salt water impacting the Franks Creek drainage just 3 miles away.
Both creek drainages empty into the Little Missouri River, but none of the spilled material has traveled that far, says State Health Department spill investigator Bill Suess.
The Frank Creek spill of 280 barrels of salt water and 20 barrels of oil was caused by a broken flow line on White Rock Oil and Gas equipment between the well and the treater unit. Suess said it was detected immediately and reported Monday because of the direct relationship from the well to the unit.
He said vacuum trucks are being used to remove fluids from about one-half mile of Franks Creek where a dam was constructed to prevent further migration of the rogue fluids. Flushing and pumping operations could be put into use if necessary, according to Suess, adding the cause of the flow line break is not known, but the line will be excavated to find out what happened.
The department has issued a notice of violation to Belle Fourche Pipeline, operator of the transmission line that broke and spilled oil in Ash Coulee Creek, with the oil traveling about 5 miles downstream.
The 6-inch transmission line had a broken leak detector and leaked for several days before being discovered by a nearby landowner in early December.
Suess said no penalty has yet been assessed against Belle Fourche Pipeline, partly in interest of assuring the company’s cooperative cleanup.
The Ash Coulee Creek cleanup is far from over and crews are burning off small remaining pockets of oil after major burns and will continue to flush and pump the waterway, as well as remove impacted vegetation by hand, he said.
The transmission line leaked because of slumping on the hillside where it protruded a short distance. Suess said a drill probe of the soil there is being analyzed to learn what it will take to stabilize the hillside for continued pipeline operations.
“They’re making very good progress at Ash Coulee Creek, but it’s a long slow process. This will go into ice out; we know that,” he said.