Posted 6/17/14 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor
A Utah man allegedly caught “red-handed” dumping saltwater into a ditch south of Ambrose now faces a felony charge.
According to Sheriff Lauren Throntveit, a St. George, Utah man was observed dumping his load into a ditch at the corner of 97th Street and 129th Avenue. This ditch ran into a slough, and saltwater from the ditch entered the slough.
The June 6th incident so far has not appeared on a state spill reporting website.
The trucker, Skyler Fowler Harris, 34, has been charged with “Improper Disposal of Waste Material,” a Class C Felony.
Throntveit said Harris was driving for Frick & Frack Transport, LLC, a Medicine Lake, Mont., trucking company, subcontracted to BOH Trucking, a North Dakota firm, to haul oilfield wastes. A local resident reported the incident.
The individual drove by the truck, stuck in mud by the slough, said Throntveit, and thought something “just didn’t look right.” The individual noticed a hose coming off the tanker and going into the ditch, which connected to the slough.
When Deputy Zach Schroeder arrived on the scene, he witnessed the hose and found Harris with the truck.
The amount of saltwater dumped is unknown at this point. Schroeder alleges Harris falsified his log book. His truck ticket said he was hauling 60 barrels of saltwater. The digital meter on the truck said 72 barrels. This would amount to between 2,500 and more than 3,000 gallons of saltwater potentially impacting the slough.
The cleanup is ongoing, Schroeder said.
Harris will be charged $200 to $300 for county road maintenance where he got stuck, plus the cost of the clean-up of the spill, Schroeder said.
Baytex assisted the county with the clean-up, installing booms to check the spread of saltwater further out into the slough and vacuuming up what they could.
Throntveit lauded the company’s response.
“They really stepped up to the plate on this one,” he said. “They were out there in a short period of time, and they helped to clean up.”
Throntveit and County Emergency Manager Jody Gunlock are angry about another dumping in the county.
Throntveit said truckers are no longer using small oil tanker trucks because they’re not big enough to make money hauling water. When oil companies pay by the load, he said, not hourly as in the past, it creates a circumstance where trucking companies have to haul a lot of water to make a profit.
This creates all kinds of problems, including overweight trucks, and it promotes dumping; so truckers can make more runs, hence carry more loads.
Throntveit said wastewater disposal companies charge by the barrel for handling wastewater. The fees are 70 to 75 cents per barrel for freshwater, $1.75 to $2 per barrel for “flowback.”
If Harris dumped 150 gallons into the ditch, Throntveit said, it would have cost Frick & Frack or BOH just $112 to $300 for the load, a small price to pay compared to the fines that could be involved and the cost to the county for the cleanup and the damage to the environment.
“Oil companies are promoting this by paying by the load,” Throntveit said. “But it’s costing us a fortune. This is going to get very expensive for all involved.”
Gunlock said similar incidents have occurred recently in Mountrail, Burke and McKenzie counties.
“We’re getting tired of this,” Gunlock said. “Maybe if these guys get 30 to 60 days in jail it will start to mean something.”
“I’ve talked to oil industry haulers, and oil companies have reduced their pay to the point where I wonder how anyone can make money hauling,” Gunlock said.
From a political and emergency management perspective, Gunlock would like to see damages and penalties “stick” to the oil companies.
“Everyone wants two or three degrees of separation from this,” Gunlock said. “Oil companies are responsible for hiring these guys. They should also be responsible for making sure they hire people who do the job right.”
Frick & Frack is a small trucking company, with one to three drivers, that claims to haul oilfield gear, chemicals and general freight.
BOH is a much larger company, boasting 55 trucks, “prompt and dependable” service, “highly skilled, specially trained” drivers who transport saltwater to disposal wells “Accurately, Safely and Efficiently.” BOH owns two disposal well sites – a saltwater disposal well in Williams County, and a flowback and pit water site in McKenzie County.
A request Monday for comment from BOH had yielded no response as of press time.
Court hearing in July
Harris paid his $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court at 1 p.m., July 24, in Crosby.
The absence of the event on the state spill site, according to the Director of the state’s Division of Water Quality Karl Rockeman, is due to a couple of factors, having to do with identifying a responsible party and the lack of any official report.
Gunlock and Schroeder said state personnel were onsite to video the scene and take information for them.
Kris Roberts, an investigator with Water Quality, is looking into the case but was unavailable for comment at press time.