Follow us on Facebook

Latest Comments

ND Outdoors Sites


Featured Link


Login Form

Support NorthDecoder

Search This Site


Amazon Search Widget

Feature Stories

The Low Road

Amazon Search

JoomlaWatch 1.2.12 - Joomla Monitor and Live Stats by Matej Koval
Oil Blow-out "A lot worse than has been reported" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Monday, 05 August 2013 00:00

VanHook002You're getting bad information.  The media keeps understating the severity of the oil spills in the Bakken. They're getting bad information from state government officials. With respect to one oil well blow-out, a government official has written, "It is a lot worse than has been reported on radio and print media."  The media isn't smart enough to figure it out. (Or they're bought off.) I'm gonna try to help them. And you.

Remember back in December there was an oil well blow-out a little ways southeast of New Town, North Dakota, a couple miles from the lake-front resort community of Van Hook?  If not, I'll refresh your memory.

Oil, gas and formation water spewed out, sometimes higher than utility poles, covering fields with a yellow mist Thursday at the site of a blowout at an oil and gas well near Van Hook.

The site is about 2 miles east of Van Hook, a resort community in southern Mountrail County along Lake Sakakawea. Van Hook, southeast of New Town, is on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The well site is near Lake Sakakawea to the north. Officials at the scene said Thursday afternoon there was no threat to the public or the lake.

[ ]

State officials said the wind was blowing the mist away from the lake. Roberts said they were ready to put booms on the lake if needed.

[ ]

One observer said the well was blowing oil all night and the sound was loud.

Minot Daily News (By Eloise Ogden, Minot Daily News)

Well, thank goodness there was no threat to Lake Sakakawea, right?  Luckily, reports (and reporters) were telling us the blow-out was contained nicely on the well pad or within a berm, with no oil or other contaminants reaching Lake Sakakawea.

Lake Sakakawea, less than one mile to the south of the well, was not in danger of being affected, Roberts said.

The well sprayed oil, gas and water containing brine, Roberts said. The mist drifted more than 2,000 feet to the southwest of the well before the wind shifted, he said. The mist was spraying to the north, and Roberts estimates it has affected an area of about 1,500 feet. The amount of oil released is unknown at this time, Roberts said.

ForumComm (By Amy Dalrymple)

More confirmation from the press that Lake Sakakawea was safe:

Lake Sakakawea is just 1/2 mile north of the well and as of Friday morning, Capt. Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, said there were no reports of and [sic] contaminants having reached the lake.

RigHands.com (by John Pendleton)

Ah, but there's also a wildlife management area nearby...

A state-owned wildlife management area borders the field where the well is located. The saltwater coming up with the oil is the most toxic.

BismarckTribune.com (By Lauren Donovan)

But, again, we were lucky to have a cracker-jack Bismarck Tribune reporter doing a story about the clean-up a week later and she didn't mention any impact on Lake Sakakawea, either.  Everything that blew out from the well  was "contained within a berm and vacuumed up for salvage."  


Here's some video of the blow-out...

But Lake Sakakawea is safe.

Disaster averted.


Back to your hum-drum life where you don't worry about oil companies poisoning the drinking-water supply for Williston, New Town, Bismarck, Mandan, Washburn and every other town or city along Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River.  

These are not the droids you are looking for.


But... Hey, wait a minute.  Here's an email from Kent Luttschwager, Wildlife Resource Supervisor, at ND Game and Fish.  

From:  Luttschwager, Kent A.

(Click here for source) (highllighting added)

Hey, wait a minute!  I thought all the news stories said the wind blew the poisonous fracking liquids away from the lake!  I thought all the newspapers and radio and TV told us the oil and poison blow-out was contained to the well pad and an area around it surrounded by a berm!  And a guy in state government says "it is a lot worse than has been reported" in the press and oil sprayed out 4,100 feet onto the lake?!?  Forty-one hundred feet is more than three quarters of a mile. That's like nine (9) city blocks. The news reports suggested the well is "1/2 mile north of the lake." A half-mile is 2,640 feet. So they're saying the well sprayed 6,740 feet?!? I thought the news stories said the mist only blew 2,000 feet to the southwest, and only 1,500 feet to the northeast.  

What the Hell?!?

Let's dig into this a little bit more. Let's look at this the way a REAL journalist would look at it.  First, are there any reports that have been put together (besides this email) discussing the spill? Who would write up such a report?  Hmmmm... Think, think, think.  Well... I'm sure Slawson brought in a hired gun clean-up firm. They've probably done a report. (They did. Got it.)  How about... Game and Fish probably put together some reports and things, since it was their Wildlife Management Area that got soaked with oil and poison. (Got 'em.)  This wildlife management area is on the lake shore, so it's USACOE land.  Maybe they did a report.  (Yep. Got that.)  No North Dakota "journalist" has time to read all those.  So let's just go with the one with the fewest big words? How 'bout the report? Let's see what it says:

It was determined the crude extended approximately 6,490 feet onto COE lands (measured northeast to southwest using Google Earth Pro and GIS).  The crude extended approximately 4,100 feet into Lake Sakakawea (i.e., 4,100 feet measured from the 1850’ operating pool elevation).  Approximately one half of the 4,100 feet was on ice.  Crude was observed on snow, ice, bare ground, grass and trees (both deciduous and evergreen) during the site visit.  The crude was visible as either a layer within the snow (as previously discussed) or a sheen on vegetation.

Site Visit Notes

Okay, so the poisonous fracking juice only blew 6,490 feet, and not 6,740 feet.  Whew!  But, wait. That's still nearly a mile and a quarter, 4,100 feet of which was out onto the water. 

Hmmm...  I wonder what that looks like.  Well (pun intended), it looks like this:



Holy crap! From the looks of things, oil and poisonous fracking juice really did spray 8 or 9 city blocks out onto Lake Sakakawea.  

Thank God the wind wasn't blowing straight to the west. Why?  Well, because people live there.  

But the risk of a static spark that could start a fire was too high, so crews removed the equipment about 4 p.m. and the mist continued to spray to the north Thursday evening, Roberts said.

“One spark would have been one way too many,” he said.

ForumComm.com (By Amy Dalrymple)

Yeah, no sh!t.  One spark, and the whole place goes up in flames. Imagine the wind blowing straight to the West and some guy in Van Hook lights one cigarette and his whole community is smoked over.  That wouldn't be good, would it?

So here are the questions we should walk away from this with:

First, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to a wildlife management area?  Don't we have these areas so we can protect wildlife?  

Second, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to people's homes and communities?  It seems fairly clear that blow-outs are going to happen. And when they do, it's dangerous. And it can go undetected -- as here -- overnight.  

Third, aren't you glad there's a little bit of a buffer of federal land between frackable private land and a major tourism feature of North Dakota (i.e. Lake Sakakawea)?  Wouldn't it be tragic if someone had that land transferred from the feds back to the oil company shills in state government so they could make shoreline available for fracking? Or worse?

Fourth, shouldn't it be clear to all of us that it's not a question of whether there's going to be a major fracking disaster that devastates Lake Sakakawea, but when the disaster is going to happen, and how huge it is going to be? We were lucky, frankly, that this happened in the middle of the winter. Most of the poisonous fracking juice and oil could be scraped off a frozen lake pretty easily.  But it can't be scraped off an unfrozen lake.  

Fifth, Who is lying to us?  Is it Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Goehrring, all of whom are directly responsible for what happens at the Industrial Commission's Oil & Gas Division office?  Is it the State Health Department, under Dalrymple?  Is it the media?  Can you think of a reason why North Dakota's media under-reported this event?  Could it be that they are making massive amounts of money from oil companies who run ads in their papers and on their radio stations.  Might it be that they're a bunch of cowering, pathetic chicken-shits, afraid they'll lose their gravy train? Or is it all of them?

Sixth, is this sort of lying happening all the time?  (Hint: Yes.)  Seriously, when is somebody going to do a story about the systemic lying from government officials working for Dalrymple, Stenehjem and Goehring in Oil & Gas? Have you noticed that every time there's a spill or a blow-out, initial reports say it was just one barrel of oil that spilled?  Or maybe five? Then, months later, the spill report is quietly amended to show it was a lot more oil than initially reported. The initial spill report always makes the news. It never makes the news when they change the number from "one barrel" to "one hundred barrels." It's not unlike our media's interest in the Oil & Gas Division press release about the initial report of millions of dollars in fines being levied, but then no reporting on the 90% reduction of those fines. I'd like a side of truth with my news.

Lastly, does anybody know what a ""USFWS contaminants girl" is? I'm imagining the Fish & Wildlife Service has hired a 12-year-old female to test for toxins around oil blow-outs.  You'd think they'd want someone older and with a college degree, maybe.

One day, somebody is going to put on their haz-matt suit and trek across the baren, toxic wasteland that is Mordor in Western North Dakota and hate all of us for letting them get away with this. 

We should do something about this.

Comments (6)add comment

nimrod said:

August 05, 2013
Votes: -1

Steve C. said:

To bad reporting this to the authorities would be like telling the fox that someone is raiding the Chicken coop!
August 05, 2013
Votes: +2

Big Running said:


This is solid reporting on your end. The lying by state officials is systematic and orchestrated. Roberts at the state health dept minimizes everything. You can count on him to say the same thing every time. The state is so brazen about it that they don't realize just how obvious it really is.
August 05, 2013
Votes: +3

Jennifer B. said:

I have been sickened about the greed and ruthlessness of ND's
Politicians. Every day there is more bad news about what was once
a beautiful prairie and how the oil companies continue to under report
the devastation. ND is screwed!
August 07, 2013
Votes: +1

treehugger said:

It is sometimes said about journalism that it is not so much what is published but rather what is not published? The people can't complain about something they don't know about. The quality of the journalism coming out of the North Dakota media is not only biased but very often poorly written and incompletely researched. The reporters apparently don't know how to research a story and their editors are perfectly happy with that.
August 09, 2013
Votes: +0

marla roszell said:

Lake Sakakwea
that lake is our only source of water that this reservation has.. we need to keep it safe
August 20, 2013
Votes: +1

Write comment

security image
Write the displayed characters