WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A Colorado oil company probably will be sanctioned for not heeding a warning to properly secure a North Dakota well that was swamped by floodwaters and spilled oil near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, a state health official said Monday.
Environmental geologist Kris Roberts said potential fines or other actions were "likely" against Denver-based Zavanna LLC, after up to 1,400 gallons of oil spilled from its well site into floodwaters in the area southwest of Williston.
"Their response was not as fast as it needed to be," said Roberts, the state's head investigator on the spill.
Zavanna did not immediately return telephone calls for comment on Monday.
The spill was discovered on Friday and has been corralled by containment booms, Roberts said. No other wells in the area have leaked oil into floodwaters and no oil has been found in the main channel of the Missouri River, downstream for the well site, he said.
"It could have been much worse," Roberts said.
Zavanna's well, more than a mile from the Missouri River, was swamped with water that backed up from the ice-choked channel. A tank that contained about 33 barrels of oil at the well site floated from the rising water and broke a valve, spilling at least some of its content, Roberts said.
State Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter said regulators began notifying oil companies in the region on March 10 to secure wells because of the threat of flooding from ice jams. About 50 wells in the area were threatened by the forecasted floodwaters, she said.
"We told them to shut in their wells and make sure they were no longer pumping," Ritter said. "We told them to take any precautions they needed to make sure nothing spilled. For the most part, everyone responded appropriately. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned."
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