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North Dakota Briny Wastewater Spill Questions Still Unanswered a Month Later

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More than a month after a million gallons of briny wastewater leaked from an underground pipeline on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, a tribal environmental official said he’s still seeking confirmation that the spill did not enter the reservation’s water supply.

It was one of the largest spills in an oil field in the state’s history, according to the Associated Press, and the two-mile-long flow of saltwater left a swath of dead grass, bushes and trees. Discovered on July 8, it had probably been under way since the Fourth of July weekend, authorities estimated.

RELATED: A Million Gallons of Salty Wastewater Leaks Near Fort Berthold Water Supply

The size of the July spill rivaled that of a 2006 pipeline rupture that “belched more than a million gallons of saltwater into a northwestern North Dakota creek, aquifer and pond,” the Associated Press reported. “The cleanup efforts are ongoing at that site, which has been called the worst environmental disaster in state history.”

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The spill region was tested by contractors hired by pipeline owner Crestwood Midstream Services Inc., whose subsidiary Aero Pipeline LLC operated the pipeline. At an environmental forum on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home to the Three Affiliated Tribes, tribal environmental director Edmund Baker, also running for election as head of the tribal council, said he had not been shown any study results.

Three Affiliated Tribes natural resources administrator Claryca Mandan told the Associated Press that Baker would have had to request that paperwork and that it could not be made public without clearance from the tribe’s legal department.

“Both Crestwood and the tribe have refused requests from The Associated Press for those tests and soil tests,” the newswire said. “The tribe has also refused Associated Press requests for spill reports, even though they are identified as public documents in the tribes’ environmental code.”

Baker spoke at an environmental forum held last week on the reservation, AP said.

“We’re in the absolute dark as to what the severity was when it happened, both soil and water,” Baker said, according to AP. “They say that it didn’t reach the lake. They say, no, it’s not in the groundwater. Show me the studies.”