Almost 3 million gallons of waste from saltwater drilling spilled through a hole in a waste removal pipeline in North Dakota earlier this month. The brine leaked into two creeks about 15 miles from Williston, North Dakota.
The spill was discovered by Summit Midstream Partners, the operator of the pipeline, on January 6th but its massive scope was not discovered until recently. The 3 million gallon spill is considered the largest in North Dakota since the oil boom in the state began.
The spilled brine does not pose an immediate threat to public health, the region’s drinking water, or wildlife yet. However chloride concentrations are much higher than normal in Blacktail Creek. The full impact won’t be known until the ice in the area melts. Blacktail Creek will be completely drained. Little Muddy Creek, the other creek affected by the spill, is large enough to dilute the brine that spilled into it so it won’t be drained. Waster test show it’s almost back to normal water quality.
The main concern is because the brine which contains radioactive material, heavy metals, and has almost 8 times as much salt as sea water. A brine spill in July killed vegetation by contaminating the soil and making it too dry for plants to survive. and it forced ranchers to move their cattle. Brine can also kill fish and removing from the soil is very difficult. North Dakota had 74 saltwater spills in 2013. Many of the have not yet been completely cleaned up.