INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 21, 2012, 09:01 AM

Oil well blowout probe continues near Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — An oil well blowout south of Williston has contaminated farm land but doesn't appear to have affected water sources, a state health official said.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — An oil well blowout south of Williston has contaminated farm land but doesn't appear to have affected water sources, a state health official said.

The area of cropland and pastureland most heavily affected by the 400 gallons of oil and 400 gallons of salt water that sprayed over the area last week is estimated at about 35 acres, environmental geologist Kris Roberts told The Forum newspaper.

Cleanup crews are cutting and removing contaminated vegetation.

"By getting it out of there as quickly as possible, we will see very little impact to the soil itself," Roberts said. "A lot of times, if it's just an oil release, vegetation will have completely recovered by the next season. With a salt water release, if we don't handle it properly and quickly, that type of impact could last three years."

Crews also have placed absorbent booms to prevent contamination from spreading into a creek that empties into Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River.

State health and mineral resources officials are investigating the blowout and could possibly fine the company that controls the well. The Environmental Protection Agency has been advised of the spill but has not become involved, Roberts said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and local officials are investigating the death of a worker who was struck by a pickup truck leaving the site after the incident that occurred the evening of Aug. 14 and into the next day. The worker, Jason Pinasco, 39, of Higden Ark., worked for Steamboat Energy Consultants, an independent contractor overseeing the operation of the rig controlled by Denver-based Zavanna.

Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching said his office considers the case an accident. The state's attorney's office is still reviewing the case.

Zavanna is cooperating with the cleanup and deserves credit for the design of the site, which has a raised area that helped contain the spill, Roberts said. Workers estimated they recovered about 200 barrels of each fluid as they got control of the well, he said.

Zavanna did not immediately respond to requests for comment made by The Forum and by The Associated Press. Steamboat Energy Consultants referred questions to Zavanna.

Wayne Biberdorf, a former Hess Corp. engineer who now serves as energy impact coordinator for Gov. Jack Dalrymple, said a blowout — an uncontrolled release of fluids from a well — is rare, and industry leaders will be studying this case. Roberts estimated that health officials have responded to only a handful of blowouts in the past two years.

Tags: