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Associated Press, Published February 16 2011

North Dakota oil boom outpaces oversight

BISMARCK — Government oilfield inspectors are struggling to provide adequate oversight amid an explosion of activity in North Dakota's oil patch.

Officials tell The Associated Press that hundreds of oilfield spills and thousands of waste disposal sites are going untended or are infrequently monitored because of a lack of personnel and funding.

Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, says staffing is designed to handle 100 rigs and about 5,000 wells. A record 169 rigs were drilling on Wednesday and more than 5,300 wells were pumping oil.

Helms says the agency has funding for 13 inspectors but would like to have two dozen.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are facing some of the same oilfield inspection-staffing woes on federal land in North Dakota.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.