Decade-long North Dakota diesel spill cleanup nearing completion

Farm Forum

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — The city of Mandan this spring plans to shut down nearly all of the wells that have been sucking up an underground diesel fuel spill for nearly a decade.

The spill was discovered in 1984. BNSF Railway agreed 20 years later to pay more than $30 million in cash and real estate to settle a lawsuit brought by the city and state. The railroad did not admit to any liability in the deal, which was the largest environmental settlement in North Dakota history.

The city used some of the money to hired Leggette, Brashears & Graham Inc., to handle the cleanup of the spill that was estimated at as much as 4 million gallons. The consultant installed about 300 recovery wells downtown to go with another 60 that had previously been installed by BNSF and other contractors before LBG was hired in 2004.

LBG Senior Vice President Tim Kenyon said the city has gone from a 4 feet deep pool of diesel under a large part of the downtown area to only a handful of wells still collecting fuel. He said 322 wells will be shut down this spring, monitored for a year and likely decommissioned in spring 2015, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

Fifty-five wells will continue to operate because there are some pockets of diesel left. Those will continue to be monitored, Kenyon said.

“The best case is we’ll be decommissioning those wells in the summer of 2016, and we’ll be out of your hair and the Mandan remediation will be complete,” he said.

City commissioner Sandra Tibke said the decommissioning of all of the wells will mark the end of “a lot of difficult years.”