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No impact expected from fuel spill in Devils Lake

DEVILS LAKES, N.D. -- The Tuesday spill of hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel into Devils Lake is not expected to seriously harm the lake and its fishery, said a representative of the North Dakota Department of Health.

Karl Rockeman, director of the health department’s division of water quality, said Thursday that about 500 gallons of diesel fuel seems to have dissipated after leaking into the water from a faulty pump at a North Dakota Army National Guard station.

The spill at Camp Grafton released a total of almost 1,300 gallons of fuel into a storm drain in the span of about 12 minutes after a dispensing pump broke down. Most of that fuel was contained within the drain, which camp public information officer Maj. Amber Balken said was capped to prevent any further spillage into the lake.

Balken said crews haven’t been able to find any fuel on the shoreline or on the surface of the water. Searches conducted into Wednesday afternoon have led mitigators to believe the fuel has broken up and dispersed.

Even so, crews have remained in the area looking for lingering patches of fuel.

Rockeman said a more thorough visual assessment of the situation would likely be completed by the end of Thursday. From the preliminary results, he didn’t expect the spill to have “any impact” on lake recreation nor any long-lasting effect on the water itself.

The storm drain is now being cleaned by a contractor brought in from Minot, Balken said. The spill is being investigated by the National Guard in cooperation with the health department.

“We want to know what happened so we can prevent it from happening in future,” Balken said, adding the National Guard conducts spill training on an annual basis.  

She believed the results of the investigation will soon be available for release.

Rockeman said the health department has had staff on location to participate in the investigation. He said the cause of the leak is “something we’ll be looking at very closely” to determine if the fuel discharge warrants any enforcement action.

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