Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published April 15 2014
Oil Patch truck driver charged with illegal dumpingWILLISTON, N.D. – Criminal charges have been filed against a truck driver accused of illegally dumping oilfield waste in western North Dakota, and the trucking company he worked for could face more than $1 million in civil penalties, officials said Tuesday.
Leo Slemin, a driver with Black Hills Trucking of Wyoming, has been charged with a Class C felony for allegedly illegally dumping saltwater, a byproduct of oil production and an environmental hazard.
Black Hills Trucking faces potential fines from two state agencies for alleged repeat illegal dumping incidents and for hauling waste without a license since 2008.
In addition, the companies that hired Black Hills Trucking to haul their waste also could face penalties from the North Dakota Department of Health, said Dave Glatt, environmental health section chief.
A Department of Mineral Resources inspector witnessed Slemin on Feb. 14 driving a truck along a stretch of road in southwest Williams County with valves on the underside of the truck open, allowing saltwater to flow directly onto the ground, court records say.
The criminal charge, which is a violation of North Dakota Industrial Commission rules, is being handled by the Attorney General’s Office.
“The state will not hesitate to bring criminal and civil actions when we learn of instances of illegal dumping,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement. “Those who blatantly disregard rules designed to protect the environment and keep our citizens safe will be held accountable for their actions.”
Slemin is scheduled to appear in Williams County District Court on Monday. Court information does not list an attorney for Slemin, who is from Mountrail County, according to a news release.
The Feb. 14 incident the inspector witnessed occurred in an area where numerous reports of illegal dumping have been received.
The Department of Mineral Resources, on behalf of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, issued a civil complaint against Black Hills Trucking seeking more than $950,000 in penalties for repeat dumping of waste on gravel roads alleged during February and March.
Surveillance equipment recorded the company’s trucks with saltwater pouring from open valves driving to and from a Williams County saltwater disposal well, the Department of Mineral Resources said.
A representative from the Williston office of Black Hills Trucking said the company has no comment.
In addition, the North Dakota Department of Health has issued the company a notice of violation for operating without a waste hauler’s license and other violations. The amount of fine will be determined through a hearing process, but some violations carry possible penalties of $12,500 per day, Glatt said.
Operating without a proper license to haul oilfield waste carries a penalty of up to $1,000 per day, and health officials believe the company operated without a license since 2008, Glatt said.
The company had a permit and allowed it to expire May 9, 2008, according to the Health Department’s notice of violation. The department sent two notices in 2008 reminding the company to renew the license.
“There really is no excuse for them not to know that they need a license,” Glatt said.
Health officials will be investigating which oil companies hired Black Hills Trucking to haul the wastewater, and those companies could be fined as well, Glatt said.
The Oil and Gas Division verified that the company’s trucks were not hauling wastewater shortly after the company was notified of the violations, said Alison Ritter, department spokeswoman.
Stenehjem urged citizens and other waste haulers to report any suspected illegal dumping to authorities.