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Published October 29, 2013, 08:44 AM

Cleanup of saltwater spill ongoing in western North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Houston-based energy company is cleaning up a saltwater spill on U.S. Forest Service land in the western North Dakota oil patch.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Houston-based energy company is cleaning up a saltwater spill on U.S. Forest Service land in the western North Dakota oil patch.

The spill from a disposal line was discovered Oct. 22 on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. The line leaked an estimated 150 barrels — or 6,300 gallons — of saltwater, a byproduct of oil and gas production. State Health Department officials have that said some of the saltwater reached Blacktail Creek north of Belfield but that no harm to fish, wildlife or livestock has been observed.

Encore Energy Partners Operating LLC has shut down the oil wells producing the saltwater and have been pumping water from a beaver dam on the creek where the saltwater might have collected. Crews also will be washing salt off the hard-packed soil in the area, Encore Energy environmental coordinator Bart Brinkerhoff told The Bismarck Tribune.

The company also has deployed vacuum trucks to a creek crossing downstream and is removing water to prevent saltwater from traveling any farther downstream.

Brinkerhoff said it took until Monday to get the pond pumps running at capacity in the rugged area in Billings County. Officials have not estimated how long cleanup will take.

The company and Health Department are awaiting results from water tests. Officials said it appears from early water samples that salt contamination is relatively low, and state Water Quality Director Dennis Fewless said less water might have reached the creek than initially thought.

The water samples will help determine how much more pumping and vacuuming needs to be done.

"We're not releasing anything (equipment) until we get the lab samples. Right now we all agreed to continue," Brinkerhoff said.

Fewless said the department is concentrating on cleanup and determining the scope of remediation work, and will decide on any possible penalties later.

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