North Dakota officials dispute report on gas plant spill
BISMARCK — A top North Dakota regulator said Tuesday, Aug. 20, more than 240,000 gallons of natural gas liquid were recovered from a 2015 processing plant spill as a well-known environmental blog suggested the state downplayed the incident.
DeSmog reported Monday that an unidentified whistleblower said the underground pipeline spill at Oneok's Garden Creek gas plant in Watford City totaled more than 11 million gallons. A state incident report lists the leak at only 10 gallons, but it notes that the "ground around the pipe was saturated with natural gas condensate of an unknown volume."
Dave Glatt, director of North Dakota's Department of Environmental Quality, said his agency was gathering more information about the spill but argued the 11 million gallon figure is "way out of line." State officials say the leak was contained to the gas plant site and hasn't affected drinking water sources.
Bill Suess, the DEQ's spill investigation program manager, acknowledged that it was a "significant spill" but said they can't pin down a specific figure because the line wasn't "metered" and some of the condensate had already evaporated. He said the department hasn't updated the 10 gallon figure on its incident report because of state laws against altering documents.
"We knew it was bigger than 10 gallons right from the start," Suess said. "Oneok has never come back and said, 'Hey, we think it's this volume.'"
Scott Skokos, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental watchdog group, said the incident highlights the need for more accurate reporting of such spills.
"People should know that this thing was a significant spill in that area," he said.
Oneok spokesman Brad Borror said a document the whistleblower provided DeSmog seeking to back up claims of an 11 million gallon spill reflected "hypothetical assumptions" developed by environmental consultants. He said the underground nature of the release makes it "impossible to determine the actual volume released with any level of certainty or accuracy."
Oneok is an Oklahoma-based company that describes itself as a "leader in the gathering, processing, storage and transportation of natural gas," which is a byproduct of oil development.
"We are committed to the full restoration of the site," Borror wrote in an email.