BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — It took nearly two weeks for North Dakota officials to tell the public about an autumn pipeline rupture that caused more than 20,000 barrels of crude to ooze across a northwestern wheat field.
In response to extensive media coverage and criticism from environmental groups, the North Dakota Health Department will launch a website sometime this week that will enable the public to monitor reported oil spills and other hazardous leaks.
Dave Glatt, chief of the department's environmental health section, said Monday that website visitors will be able to track recent spills and those that happened as far back as 1975.
"All of the historical numbers of the spills we have had will be on there," Glatt said. "And we will be updating it manually about two times a week."
The website did not have a dedicated Internet address on Monday.
The massive spill from a Tesoro Corp. pipeline that was discovered by a Tioga farmer in September, and the incident exposed that state regulators had known about the spill but failed to notify the public until The Associated Press asked about it.
The agency said that while companies must notify the state of any spills, the regulators don't have to release that information to the public, which is not unusual in oil-producing states.
"It's a long time coming and a step in the right direction and something we've been asking for, for a while," Don Morrison, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, said about the spill data that's designed to be easily tracked by the public.