WILLISTON (AP) - A Wyoming-based trucking company working in North Dakota could face fines of $2 million or more for operating without a license and illegally dumping saltwater, a byproduct of oil production, two North Dakota state agencies said Tuesday.
"Companies should take notice that they need to understand what is required if they are going to do business in this state," said Dave Glatt, the environmental health section chief at the Health Department, in a statement. "If they fail to comply, they may be fined."
In a phone conversation, Glatt said Black Hills Trucking Inc. could be fined up to $1,000 for every day it operated without a license. He said he believed the company has operated without a license since 2008.
The Department of Mineral Resources is seeking maximum penalties of more than $950,000 from the company for illegally dumping saltwater on a Williams County road. In a statement, the department said one of its field inspectors witnessed illegal dumping firsthand while surveillance equipment recorded further evidence of illegal dumping on several occasions in February and March.
The illegal dumping took place on gravel roads near the Davidson Saltwater Disposal Well, about five miles southeast of Tioga according to Alison Ritter, a public information officer with the Department of Mineral Resources.
Saltwater can pose a danger to the environment and must be disposed of in a manner that complies with the rules established by the state's Industrial Commission.
The cases could end up in court or might be resolved through a settlement, said Glatt.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced separately that criminal charges have been filed against one of the company's drivers, Leo Slemin. Slemin was the driver observed illegally dumping saltwater by the Department of Mineral Resources inspector.
Slemin is due in court on April 21. If convicted, he could face five years in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both.
"The state will not hesitate to bring criminal and civil actions when we learn of instances of illegal dumping," said Stenehjem in a statement. "Those who blatantly disregard rules designed to protect the environment and keep our citizens safe will be held accountable for their actions."
Stenehjem urged the public to contact law enforcement or the Department of Mineral Resources if they observe illegal dumping.
Black Hills, the company at the center of the three investigations, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.