Illegal waste dumping must stopIllegally dumping sewage along roads and on fields, as two companies did in western North Dakota earlier this year, rightly offended many people. The idea that waste poured into ditches eventually could reach Painted Woods Creek made clear the potential hazard. The discovery of the dumping marks a low point in the oil boom that’s going on in the state.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
Illegally dumping sewage along roads and on fields, as two companies did in western North Dakota earlier this year, rightly offended many people.
The idea that waste poured into ditches eventually could reach Painted Woods Creek made clear the potential hazard. The discovery of the dumping marks a low point in the oil boom that’s going on in the state.
The North Dakota Health Department intends to fine the companies — Mon-Dak Water and Septic Service of Stanley and Hurley Oilfield Service of Fairview, Mont. The maximum penalty for violations is $5,000 per day and many would agree it’s not high enough.
There are few excuses in this case. The companies involved are “waste disposal” companies, it’s their business. The drivers and operators are licensed by the state.
In recent years, there have been rumors about trucks dumping oil field and septic waste along roads in the Oil Patch, but there had been few confirmed incidents. Now a state inspector, acting on a citizen complaint, observed dumping firsthand. Catching these violators raises questions about the intensity of the state’s oversight.
North Dakota allows “field application” of septic waste or sewage, but there are clear rules to protect public health. Those rules include mitigating problems with insects and animals and adhering to “crop harvesting, animal grazing and site access restrictions.”
Records must be kept. And according to state rules and regulations: “Domestic sewage or sewage effluent shall not be disposed on in any manner that will cause pollution of the ground surface, ground water, bathing area, lake, pond, watercourse or create a nuisance.”
The oil industry has brought much good to North Dakota, in particular good-paying jobs and heightened economic vitality. With it also have come problems. Everyone is aware of issues related to rents and housing, water and sewer and roads and bridges. These have become challenges for state government, ones for which the public expects solutions.
The rules under which the state is operating related to disposing of septic waste were written in the 1950s. They need to be updated to take into consideration the intensity of development in western North Dakota. They need to be applied fairly and aggressively in those areas where rules are being disregarded.
There’s no excuse for the two companies violating the law. They knew the rules and there were well established alternatives to illegal dumping.
People and companies in the Oil Patch, not just oil companies and their workers, are expected to be good citizens. It’s state government’s job to hold them to that behavior.