DICKINSON, N.D. — Landowners near a shuttered oilfield waste disposal well are frustrated that abandoned equipment remains on the western North Dakota property. It’s been more than five years since the site shut down due to environmental violations.

Well operators Jason Halek and Nathan Garber were sentenced in federal court last week for violating environmental laws when operating a saltwater disposal well in 2011 and 2012, reported the Bismarck Tribune . But the wellhead, saltwater storage tanks, a trailer and a barrel of flammable chemicals are still on the site near Dickinson.

“We want the site cleaned up and put back to its original state, and the state isn’t enforcing it,” said local landowner Laura Griffin.

Griffin and her husband had their attorney send a letter to the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division to request assistance and supervision over the reclamation of the well site in September 2016. Griffin said their attorney didn’t receive any response from the state.

State regulators said they won’t start reclamation work until after a restitution hearing in February in U.S. District Court in Bismarck.

State laws require restoring the surface of the site at the same time as plugging the well, according to Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for the Department of Mineral Resources.

“Until everything is wrapped up, we can’t start the whole process,” Ritter said

Court records show reclamation work will cost around $135,000 and that prosecutors are requesting $115,000 in restitution from Halek and Garber. A $20,000 bond has already been confiscated.

According to Ritter, the state can dip into a fund for restoring abandoned well sites in order to start work before receiving the full restitution money. Ritter said the state is also finalizing steps to confiscate the equipment left at the site, which may be re-sold.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said federal officials cannot offer information about the case until after the restitution hearing.

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.