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Trucking Company May Be Forced to Learn Million Dollar Lesson

by Jana Ritter - Published: 4/16/2014

The Black Hills Trucking, of Wyoming, may be forced to cough up more than $1 million in fines for allegedly dumping saltwater in Williams County, ND and for hauling oil field waste without a license.

Verdict

On Tuesday, the North Dakota attorney general announced that he will also prosecute the  truck driver personally for illegally dumping the oil well saltwater in Willams County. In fact, the attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, said his office has charged the driver in a February incident and warned that illegal dumping of oil well fluids will not be tolerated, He hopes that by charging the company’s driver, it will send a strong warning to the trucking and oil industry that it will put the hammer down when illegal dumping is verified. The driver, Ken Slemin, 39, will be in court Monday in Williston on a Class C felony charge.

Oil patch residents and local officials have long known that illegal dumping on roads, in ditches and fields is fairly common, but it occurs at night or out of sight and the culprit is never identified.  McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said such illegal dumping happens all the time in his county, where drilling is at an all-time high.

“This has been going on forever. It’s a good thing to catch someone and take them the court,” Samuelson said. He also said he thinks the state should require a tracking system for saltwater and drilling mud, to prevent some drivers from dumping in the middle of the night.

 In this recent incident, state Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said one of his inspectors observed a Black Hills Trucking driver with his truck valves wide open dumping saltwater. Helms said surveillance equipment also recorded Black Hills company trucks with saltwater pouring from open valves in the same vicinity of a Nabor's saltwater disposal well. The incidents occurred on three occasions in February and March, each a violation of several environmental laws. Saltwater is a toxic byproduct of oil production and tanker trucks haul 5,000 to 10,000 gallons per load away from oil wells to proper disposal wells.

Helms said his agency plans to pursue maximum penalties against Black Hills Trucking, amounting to $950,000. Helms said the company faces $12,500 for each offense of allowing fluids to flow on the ground and improper disposal, plus daily violations thereafter. In addition, the state Health Department will impose its own daily fine of $1,000 for the company’s failure to be properly licensed to haul oil field waste, said environmental health chief David Glatt.