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Dave Glatt, the environmental health section chief for the Department of Health, talks Thursday, July 18, 2013, about the state's efforts to crack down on oil waste in western North Dakota. (TJ Jerke/Forum News Service)

North Dakota regulators update size of 2015 gas plant spill

BISMARCK — North Dakota environmental regulators said Tuesday, Sept. 3, nearly 846,000 gallons of natural gas liquids and groundwater have been recovered from a 2015 gas plant spill, which initial reports suggested was much smaller.

The Watford City spill attracted scrutiny last month after an environmental blog reported it was larger than the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality's incident report showed. The report listed the leak at Oneok's Garden Creek plant at only 10 gallons with an "unknown volume" of natural gas condensate saturating the ground around the pipe.

Based on information provided in October, DEQ Director Dave Glatt said last month that more than 240,000 gallons had been cleaned up. But his agency asked for updated numbers after the size of the spill became the subject of news stories.

"They were going to submit that stuff to us anyway, but I just said, 'Hey, let's speed it up a little bit,'" Glatt said.

The DEQ said the contaminant continues to be contained within the facility's boundaries. A Oneok spokesperson said last month the leak stemmed from "hairline cracks" in a small underground pipe.

State and company officials have said the leak's nature made it hard to pin down its size. But Glatt said he has instructed his staff to examine open spill reports to make sure they're updated, and the agency is eyeing ways to improve transparency.

Glatt previously said regulators "for the most part" rely on companies to provide information on the size of a spill and noted his agency is more concerned with the cleanup itself.

A DEQ spokeswoman said updates on the Oneok spill will be included in a project file available for public review.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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