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Two Leaks Contaminate Rivers in North Dakota and Montana

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Posted by Neno Duplan

Salty wastewater from oil wells has contaminated a creek and flowed into the Missouri River after a pipeline leak in North Dakota. The state officials say that leak of 3 million gallons is its biggest-ever spill of “brine,” which in addition to high concentrations of salt often contains trace amounts of heavy metals that can be radioactive.

Such spills, which can kill vegetation and ruin farmland, have been increasing in Western North Dakota as the state has become a leading oil producer, pumping more than a million barrels of crude a day from the Bakken Shale. Briny wastewater is extracted from deep underground along with oil and gas and must be disposed of, usually by injecting it back into the ground at separate wells drilled specifically for that purpose.

The area where the spill occurred is sparely populated and officials in surrounding Williams County said they weren’t concerned about the impact on water supplies, which are miles downstream from the area affected.

The Bakken region also is cleaning up from an unrelated oil spill over the weekend in the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri. The chemicals in river came from 40,000 gallons of oil that spilled on Saturday from a pipeline breach beneath the Yellowstone River. An oil pipeline under the river burst, releasing about 960 barrels of crude near Glendive, Mont., and contaminating the local water-treatment plant. Fortunately, residents were told Thursday they can resume using tap water after tests showed no further signs of contamination from the spill.

The 6,000 residents of Glendive had relied on bottled water since Monday after elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene were found in the public water supply.

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