Solving the oil patch waste problem

Solving the oil patch waste problem by Lauren Donovan, January 14, 2012, Bismarck Tribune
North Dakota’s oil patch pumps out nearly 510,000 barrels of oil every day and in the range of 500,000 gallons of sewage wastewater from rigs, man camps and worker housing in the same 24 hours. The first crude product is very valuable and the second is very costly, the consequence of 10,000 workers using at least 50 gallons of water every day to shower, shave and do their daily business. … Locals are getting used to seeing oil rigs and wells here, there and everywhere. But a 10-million-gallon annual capacity lagoon in the middle of nowhere will take some getting used to…. Kern said the oil patch is developing so rapidly that state and local health departments are often catching up, rather than approving waste treatment projects before they start. … “There’s a lot of confusion, it’s going so fast and hard,” Kern said. “Anybody would be less than honest if they said they had total control. We do the best we can.” … “We will need to see a sewage plan up front. These are things we never thought about, but even all the rigs have (waste) that needs to be hauled out,” Longmuir said. … Guy Weimer, of Tri-State, said they’ve been turned down by Dickinson, Killdeer and Bowman. He’s hopeful of getting a contract with Bismarck, even if it’s a 120-mile one-way trip. … “There is no place for the commercial hauler unless they’re doing land application,” he said. He knows there’s illegal dumping going on by some septic pumpers. “There’s such a workload, the driver’s just looking to get his work done,” Heidbreder said. Longmuir, the county zoning coordinator, said the same thing. “We’re very much aware of illegal dumping,” he said. The Vachals, who started up MonDak Water and Septic Service six years ago, are in the same business as Tri-State. Their septic pumper trucks haul millions of gallons of sewage wastewater from 30 rig locations and man camps, including the 200-bed Atco Lodge near Williston, which alone generates 8,000 gallons of sewage wastewater every day. The Vachals dump most of their man camp and rig wastewater on crop and hayland in Mountrail and Williams counties, in a practice called land application. Land application is accepted by state and federal health and environmental regulators when it’s done properly. It isn’t necessarily accepted by everyone and the North Dakota Health Department has fielded several odor and runoff complaints from rural Williston residents who weren’t pleased with the man camp waste on nearby fields, said Marty Haroldson, the state’s septic pumper coordinator. … “Everybody does land application.” … The Vachals said even though some septic haulers illegally dump in ditches or fields without permission, land application helps grease the wheels of the oil patch, which could slow down if septic pumpers routinely had four hours of windshield time between loads.

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