Yesterday my brother and my cousin got phone calls from an oil company representative. Salt water had been spilled/leaked at the well near our farmstead and had spread onto some farm land on its way to a nearby slough. Uff da.
This morning me and my cousin The Singing Farmer drove out to the farm to view the damage and take some photos. Bakken oil wells collect a tremendous amount of waste water because the copious amounts of water (treated with salt and chemicals) they pump into the shale formation to fracture it. That’s what fracking is all about. When the oil is pumped up it brings a lot of water with it. That water is separated at the site and shunted off into storage tanks, right next to the oil storage tanks. Then it is trucked off site.
The oil company said that the release valve was vandalized. Of course that means that the spill wasn’t something they did. They are still legally responsible for any damage incurred but appearances and culpability are important to them. Would they lie about a thing like this? I don’t know. Generally you can trust about half of what the industry says. The Director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is often on the local news here. He used to work for a major oil company. Yep, he’s the fox guarding the hen house. I always joke that you can tell when he’s lying because his lips are moving. So I’m taking all of this “vandalism” claim with a grain of salt.
Salt water is nasty. If oil is spilled on your land or water, it can be cleaned up one way or another. This brine is another matter. That brown patch that you see in the photo above is never going to be growing wheat any time soon. This morning the actual temperature was just below zero with a wind chill somewhere between minus twenty and thirty. I took my gloves off to operate the camera and my fingers froze up in just a few minutes. But that water refuses to freeze. I repeat. The water isn’t freezing.
So we’ll wait and see now. The cleanup crew was working on the well pad when we were out there, vacuuming up water and running a Bobcat to create a berm to block any more water from draining into the field. I have no doubt they’ll do a diligent job cleaning up. But I still don’t like it and no amount of smooth assurances from the oil company is going to do any good. Let’s just say the industry’s track record and that of our state government don’t assuage us.
We always knew there would be a price for prosperity in this part of the state. We put up with reckless meth addicts driving big rigs, township and county roads battered to shreds, miles after miles of gas flares, a landscape that is altered forever, and a dozen other minor to major calamities. This is just one more cross to bear on a land that has seen just a few too many.