Waste-treatment facility in the North Dakota oil field is being forced to close

A waste-treatment facility in North Dakota that serves the Bakken oil field is being forced to close. The North Dakota Industrial Commission recently declined to renew the plant’s permit, based on repeated environmental violations. The facility, located near Killdeer, North Dakota, took in oilfield waste and recycled it into a fly ash substitute and had a pilot project to make road base material from oilfield cuttings. However, over the past few years the State has been alerted to several environmental problems at the facility, including unreported spills, unpermitted outdoor storage of hazardous waste, and storing nearly four times the facility’s permitted amount of waste. Environmental noncompliance of this plant is a particular cause for concern because of its location on top of the Killdeer Aquifer. The plant’s location atop a geologically and hydrologically sensitive area was an important factor in deciding not to renew the plant’s permit.

In addition to environmental concerns over the plant’s operations, earlier this year a welder was hospitalized for injuries he suffered when a tank at the facility exploded while he was welding on it. The welder was fortunately able to crawl away from the flames, and was transported to a hospital in Dickinson for medical treatment of his injuries. It was determined later that the cause of the explosion was a build-up of fumes inside the tank, which had not been cleaned property. That accident brought the attention of county and state officials to the amount of waste present at the facility and the facility’s handling of that waste.

Now that the permit has been non-renewed, the facility must find ways to properly dispose of its current stockpile of waste, which it will do by transporting the waste materials to two approved landfills. The plant will be required to submit a plan for closure to the health department, so that closure activities can be monitored for any additional violations.