Oil and brine spilled at a well site in Mountrail County has impacted the White Earth River, reports the North Dakota Department of Health.
The spill occurred at an Oasis Petroleum operated well at around 11 p.m. on Saturday. Located approximately 15 miles south of White Earth, the personnel on site lost control of the well. Oasis is currently working to regain control, but as of Monday at 8 a.m., the well had not yet been shut in. The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division told the Bismarck Tribune that roughly 8,200 barrels were spilled, but the actual amount hasn’t been verified.
A light sheen could be seen on the surface of the White Earth River roughly 850 feet north of the well pad. Booms were placed across the river to help keep the spilled material from migrating downstream to the lake. It empties into Lake Sakakawea, which is part of the Missouri River and is the primary drinking water source for southwest North Dakota.
Brine water, also referred to as saltwater, is a byproduct of the oil and gas drilling process. The Environmental Protection Agency states that this water is usually extremely toxic to the environment and contains radioactive material and heavy metals. The water is many times saltier than sea water, and the toxic substances can be extremely damaging to the environment and public health if released onto the surface.
Personnel from the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, as well as the Department of Health, are on site continuing to monitor the situation.