Salted seawater covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.
But the saltwater that is produced as a byproduct of oil and natural gas production is 10 to 30 times saltier than seawater. It can be toxic to plants, fish and wildlife, and make fresh water unsuitable for drinking when spilled.
In fact, saltwater is considered to be an environmental hazard.
On July 9, it was determined that about 1 million gallons of saltwater had leaked from a pipeline in North Dakota, some of it into a bay, which leads to a lake that provides drinking water the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall told The Associated Press (AP) that an underground pipeline had leaked about 24,000 barrels of saltwater near Bear Den Bay, a tributary of Lake Sakakawea. Late Sakakawea is a Missouri River reservoir which provides water to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes that reside on the reservation.
Some damage to trees, bushes and grass was reported, but the extent of the leak’s damage is not clear. However, tribal leaders and officials of the company that owns the pipeline—Arrow Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of Crestwood Midstream Partners LP—said the lead has been isolated and drinking water is unaffected, the AP reported.
A company spokesperson said the pipeline is not equipped with a system that sends an alert when there is a leak, and the spill was only discovered when the company was going through production loss reports.
Hall said there is a berm and a dike around the bay area to prevent the saltwater from going into the lake.
Environmental geologist with the North Dakota Department of Health Kris Roberts said damage from the toxic spill could be seen when he visited the site. “We’ve got dead trees, dead grasses, dead bushes, dying bushes,” Roberts said.
Proposed legislation to require flow meters and cutoff switches on such lines was rejected last year in the North Dakota State Legislature.