Posted 8/18/15 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor
“We got lucky,” says Jody Gunlock, Divide County emergency manager.
Clay – “really, really dense clay,” about 60 feet thick according to Gunlock and the state Department of Health (DOH) – lying under the recent 4,600-barrel brine spill northwest of Crosby kept the spill from growing.
The clay layer also kept the spill from seeping into the ground, possibly contaminating the pothole and perhaps entering underlying aquifers.
The spill, reported Aug. 5 at about 3:30 p.m., took place at the Christensen SWD saltwater gathering system and was the result of a pipeline leak.
Some 179,000 gallons of brine seeped out of the pipeline before being discovered.
The pipeline has since been repaired, the leak stopped, and Samson has removed more than 1,060 barrels – nearly 45,000 gallons -- of brine from the site.
Samson also excavated about a foot of soil from an 800 by 800 foot area around the spill.
Other than where the pipeline channel was, Gunlock said, little brine actually seeped into the ground due to the clay layer.
Gunlock said he was notified by Samson that the company is waiting for the state’s go-ahead to backfill the damaged area with clean topsoil. DOH must test the area before this okay is given, he said.
Problem is, DOH has been very slow to get around to okaying these efforts.
A smaller brine spill on Kent Haugland’s farm last spring has still not been okayed by DOH yet, Gunlock said.
“It shouldn’t take that long,” he said, “unless someone dropped the ball.”
In the past, when Chris Roberts was in charge of cleanups, Gunlock said, communications with DOH were better.
Now, with Roberts retired, DOH contact didn’t happen and Gunlock was “blindsided” by this spill, learning about it through news reports.
Meanwhile, Samson is adding a county contact to their spill protocol routine, he said, along with contacting DOH and the state Industrial Commission.