N.D. spill website now live

BISMARCK – A North Dakota website detailing oil spills and other environmental incidents is now live.

The North Dakota Department of Health created the website, www.ndhealth.gov/ehs/spills, to make information about spills easy to access.

Dave Glatt, chief of the Environmental Health Section, said the website had been in the works for a while after staff saw an increase in information requests for spills.

The health department received criticism after the recent Tesoro Logistics pipeline leak near Tioga that was discovered Sept. 29 but became public on Oct. 10.

“The Tesoro pipeline spill accelerated that timeline,” Glatt said of the new website.

The website provides information on the type of spill, amount released, date of incident and location. It also includes incident summaries, such as potential environmental impacts and actions taken or remediation plans.

The website will be updated at least twice a week, Glatt said.

Members of the Dakota Resource Council had been asking the health department to make this information accessible for several months, said Marie Hoff of Bismarck, who serves on the council’s board.

“This is something that we have wanted for a long time and had been hoping that it would come online,” Hoff said.

Don Morrison, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, said feedback he received from members Wednesday after the website went live was positive.

“From what we see, it looks good. It might be better than most other states. That’s a nice jump forward,” Morrison said.

After the Tioga spill, the health department began sending out press releases for certain spills. The department will continue to issue news releases for spills that pose a threat to public health and others that have more significant impacts, such as those affecting surface water, Glatt said.

The website has categories for oilfield environmental incidents and general environmental incidents.

Some recent general environmental incidents outside of the Oil Patch include a rollover in Stutsman County that caused the release of 5 pounds of medical waste and an incident in Northwood in which heating oil was delivered to the wrong address and 191 gallons of oil were dumped into the basement of a home.

One quirk to the site is that some pipeline spills, including the major Tesoro Logistics spill, are listed under general environmental incidents, Glatt said.

The health department will consider public feedback and may adjust the website if there are comments to make it more useful, Glatt said.

The site also separates categories of oilfield spills that were contained on location versus those spills that got off location.

Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, has compared it to spilling on a TV tray, which is designed to hold a spill and easy to clean up, versus a spill that gets off the TV tray and onto the carpet.

Helms said during a recent field hearing on the Tesoro Logistics spill that more than 75 percent of spills so far in 2013 were contained on a facility site or well site. That is significant because the sites are diked, have clay liners and are constructed to hold the spill and make it easier to clean up, he said.

Between Nov. 1, 2012, and Nov. 11, 2013, 1,305 spills reported to the Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division were contained on location, while 391 spills were not contained, according to a chart on the new website.

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