A Wyoming trucking company is facing fines of up to $1 million and a driver is facing criminal charges in connection with the illegal dumping of oil drilling waste in North Dakota.
According to a release issued by the state’s Department of Mineral Resources, Black Hills Trucking Inc. is accused of violating multiple environmental sections of the state code by allowing saltwater oil drilling waste to flow directly onto the ground, by improperly disposing of the fluid, and by failing to have a proper license to haul waste.
In addition, the state attorney general has charged Leo Slemin, a driver for the company, with one class C felony for illegally dumping saltwater. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
According to the investigative report, on Feb. 14 an inspector with the DMR witnessed Slemin driving a semi-truck along a stretch of road in southwest Williams County with valves on the underside of the truck open, allowing salt water to flow directly onto the ground. The alleged incident occurred in an area where numerous reports of illegal dumping have been received – a gravel road in rural Williams County between a drilling site and a well designed to hold the saltwater waste.
Slemin’s case is scheduled for hearing at 1 p.m. on Monday, April 21 in Williams County District Court. If convicted, Slemin could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both.
The DMR is also pursuing civil penalties against Black Hills Trucking for this incident and at least two other instances where Black Hills trucks were seen illegally dumping saltwater onto the same stretch of roadway.
Alison Ritter, public information officer for the DMR, said the agency doesn’t know exactly how much saltwater was dumped.
“Since this was done illegally, there was no report filed by the company,” she said, adding that the cleanup process involved the county having to “scrape the road and put new material down.”
Ritter said reports of illegal dumping in the area prompted another company to set up surveillance footage, which led to the charges against Black Hills Trucking. She said field inspectors for the agency also witnessed the dumping.
“It’s definitely an issue,” she said. “There have been criminal charges filed against another driver before, and he did plead guilty. The problem with illegal dumping is obviously it’s illegal and the person who’s doing it is going to try to get away with it for as long as possible.”
Ritter said the agency is asking for help from other truckers and the general public to report any illegal dumping activity by notifying the state Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health or her agency.
“The big thing would be try to get a license plate number or a company name on the truck. That way the responsible party can be found,” she said.
Copyright © OOIDA