BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Montana company fined $500,000 for improper sewage disposal in the western North Dakota oil patch is abandoning the practice of applying the waste to farmland because the company says it is impractical
With frozen ground in the winter, it is difficult to comply with regulations such as a requirement that the septic tank wastewater be spread over a large area, Hurley Enterprises spokesman Dave Gorham said. The Fairview, Mont., company is turning to wastewater lagoons as more of them come online, he said. The disposal violations for which the company was fined occurred in 2011 and 2012, when Gorham says there were fewer lagoon options.
"I really feel that a lot of this is just growing pains for North Dakota (and) the Health Department," he said. "We're not really upset with the Health Department, though the fines were exorbitant."
The department also fined another company, Stanley-based MonDak Water and Septic Service, $200,000 for similar offenses. Such fines have been uncommon, but "the increased (drilling) activity out in the west has just multiplied all potential violations or activities of this sort," state Water Quality Director Dennis Fewless said. "This is just a whole new issue that we're dealing with."
North Dakota last year passed Alaska to become the second-leading oil-producing state in the nation, trailing only Texas. New technology has opened up the vast Bakken shale formation to production, leading to a huge jump in the number of oil rigs and crew camps. Drilling rigs reached a record 218 in May 2012.
That has led to a big increase in the amount of septic waste that needs disposal. Fewless did not have data on the amount of waste involved in the Hurley and MonDak violations but said drivers for the companies violated waste disposal rules a total of more than 150 times.