BISMARCK A website detailing reportable spills in the oilfield and from other activities in North Dakota went live Wednesday.
Information about spills has been available to the public upon request, but the website now provides easy access to information such as the types of spills, amounts released, dates of incidents, locations and incident summaries, which include information about potential environmental impacts and actions taken or remediation plans.
Users of the online database will be able to view general environmental incidents and oilfield incidents separately. This information is further separated into incidents that have occurred within the last 12 months and those that are older. General incidents include spills of diesel fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid and other products that are reportable, and a number of these also are related to activities in oil-impacted counties.
The database contains more than 2,000 general spill incidents dating to Jan. 30, 1975, and launched with 9,233 oilfield incidents dating to Dec. 5, 2005. There also are charts that categorize the past year's incidents.
For instance, a quick glance at the chart related to oilfield incidents shows that McKenzie, with 483 spills, had the most incidents of any county for the period from Nov. 1, 2012, to Nov. 11, 2013. There were 1,305 contained spills in the oilfield and 391 uncontained spills during that time.
David Glatt, chief of the environmental health section, said staff will attempt to update the web page twice a week. The department will issue news releases related to any major spills that affect water or create other public health concerns, he said.
Website users will find a list of general data on spills that links to the report filed with the health department. The report includes additional information and is updated as investigations continue and more information becomes available, Glatt said.
Less commonly, an incident will list no substance or amount released. Gloat said this can occur if a spill is very minor or if the spill dissipated as gas. For example, a fire last month on the Fort Berthold Reservation that consumed some vegetation at a well pad site is included in the database with no actual spill information.
Glatt said the database will include spills of any size for which the health department and Oil & Gas Division receive a report. The only spills not included are those involving underground storage tanks.
Glatt said that due to the number of public requests for information, the health department was considering establishing an online database even before the Tesoro pipeline leak near Tioga in September. The spill prompted the department to move quickly on the website because of concerns raised about the lack of public notification. The public did not learn of the Tesoro incident for two weeks.
The Tesoro pipeline leak is listed in the database as an uncontained spill of 750 barrels, which is large compared to most spills but not the largest uncontained spill in the past year. An well blowout in McKenzie County last December spewed 1,399 barrels of oil and 742 barrels of saltwater while releasing 2.2 million cubic feet of natural gas over an area 1.5 miles by 2.5 miles. Also last December, another blowout in Mountrail County sent 800 barrels of oil and 400 barrels of saltwater over 100 acres.
The health department responds to various types of spills, provides technical assistance for cleanup and helps protect public and environmental health.