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McKenzie County produced water spill is Henry Hill's second to escape containment

A 200-barrel produced water spill that affected pastureland in McKenzie County will be remediated by digging out the soil and removing it, then backfilling and revegetating it.

The spill was reported to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality on Aug. 31 from a pipeline operated by Henry Hill Oil Services.

Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the Department of Environmental Quality, told the Williston Herald the cause of the spill is not yet known.

A phone call has been placed with the company to request further information about the spill’s cause. That call has not yet been returned.

Suess said he believes the spill volume the company reported is probably accurate.

“(The estimate) was based on the leak detection equipment,” he said, indicating that is also how the spill was discovered.

“There was no oil in the spill,” Suess added, referring to a media release sent out on Tuesday, Sept. 3, that characterized the spill as a mixture of oil and produced water.

Suess said while cleaning the spill up will probably take just a few weeks, monitoring will be a longer-term process.

“Two hundred barrels can go kind of deep,” he said. “So that might be a few weeks to get cleaned up, depending on the weather and everything else. Our follow up, on the other hand, will be a year or more, and at least into next spring.”

Suess said his program will return to the site in spring to see that the vegetation is establishing itself properly, and will monitor it for a time thereafter to ensure there are no further problems.

This is the second spill by Henry Hill Oil Company that has missed containment, Suess said, and the 38th spill overall since 2016. The other 36 spills were retained on the well pad.

The first spill that escaped containment happened in June 2016 and was caused by a faulty valve-piping connection.

Suess said someone from his program has been to that site recently, and recorded that vegetation is so far showing no signs of stress.

There was a note, however, that more followup on the site is needed, Suess said. He was not sure what the note referred to, but said he would look into it.

“(Henry Hill) has not had many spills offsite,” Suess said. “We are getting some phone calls from them looking for guidance, so they are obviously working to do everything right.”

Williston School District gets shot in the arm with Equinor pop-up barbecue

Equinor’s pop-up lunch for the Innovation Academy gave Williston Public School District No. 1 a boost, and not just for its Innovation Academy. Teachers, administrators and boosters alike were buoyed by Friday afternoon’s strong show of community support, after the stinging defeat of two bond issues earlier this year that were meant to help the district alleviate overcrowding.

The district’s enrollment numbers have continued to swell, thanks to an influx of oilfield workers and their families. While the senior class has around 250 students, District 1 school board president Joanna Baltes said enrollment at the kindergarten is now 400, and freshmen are 345, indicating that the enrollment is continuing an upward trend.

Baltes said it was hard to put into words how much Friday afternoon’s sell-out event meant to her and others in the district.

“It’s super wonderful to see this many people coming out to hear about what we’re doing,” she said. “This will be a different direction than most districts, and the Innovation Academy will be the center of it.”

The idea for the Innovation Academy took off last year after a group of teachers saw the learning style in Arizona and decided it to bring it back home to Williston. At its heart is an unstructured, personalized style that helps motivate students to take charge of their own, self-paced learning. That, in turn, gives teachers more time to spend one-on-one with other students who need it.

Those who are fast learners are not held back, nor are those whose pace might be slower pushed to go faster than will work well for them.

The pilot began with a group of fifth graders, but the success and value of it was immediately apparent, Baltes said. The effort continued this year, both with last year’s fifth graders (now sixth graders) and a new set of fifth graders.

The new approach will be implemented districtwide, but having a physical location for the Academy gives the new style a central hub from which to grow and develop. The center will also help to alleviate some of the overcrowding at the district, by pulling one hundred students each from fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. Another 100 from eighth grade will be added later.

The idea for the Innovation Academy has been getting tremendous support in the community, Baltes said, and that support was nowhere more evident Friday afternoon than at the Equinor-led barbecue. The event sold out of pulled pork sandwiches right off the bat.

Big brats and beefy burgers were procured from area grocers for a quick substitute. No one minded. The event wasn’t about food, nor the great music playing in the background. It was all about the worth of the cause.

Various boosters

Among the many boosters attending the luncheon were Allayna and Brenden Stevens, who have a first grader in the district.

“We were both born, raised and graduated here in Williston so we want to support the school district however we can!” Allayna said. “Our kids are still young, but we are excited to see what our School District is doing to support our students now and for the future. We feel it’s important that our community gets involved in the process because our kids are Williston’s future leaders and what better way to invest our money than to invest it into our schools?”

They weren’t the only ones thinking that way. Equinor’s Linda Pittman said the event had easily served sandwiches to between 400 and 500 people. Going into the event itself, Equinor had also already lined up $170,000 in pledges from companies they’d challenged to match their $10,000 donation.

After the event concluded, Baltes said the event had raised a total of $185,000, bringing the total raised from community sources to $900,000 so far.

The goal is to raise $5 million from the community. The district will kick in $8 million from its building fund. It can also apply for a grant from Williams County if needed.

The Innovation Academy will be housed in the old Hagan pool building, which has been vacant for quite some time, and will need quite a bit of renovation.

Baltes said abatement work will begin within the next couple of weeks in the building. Restoration work is set to begin in October.

The Academy will be open next fall. Selection criteria will be developed even as the construction work is ongoing.

Different criteria

The criteria will be different than the set used for the gifted academy, Baltes said.

“This will focus on all or any students,” she said. “Every child has different learning styles. Some kids need it more hands-on, others are more visual. Maybe one student is at a third-grade level for English and fifth-grade for math.”

The Academy won’t just be teaching students. The Academy will be a central hub, offering a hands-on look at this new approach to teachers, to help spark new approaches for them in their classrooms.

“Once teachers see this in action they get it,” Baltes said. “They say I can do this.”

Defense lawyers asking for change of venue in case of Williston Catholic school teacher accused of molesting students

Lawyers for a former Catholic school teacher accused of sexually abusing multiple students claim he cannot get a fair trial in Williston.

The attorneys representing Everest Moore have filed a motion in Northwest District Court asking for a change of venue. Prosecutors have opposed that move, saying they think an impartial jury can be found in Williams County.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Monday before Northwest District Judge Josh Rustad.

James Martens, one of Moore’s lawyers, wrote that 75 jury questionnaires were sent out and 67 were returned. Four potential jurors were excused and out of the remaining 63, “over half of the responding prospective jurors indicated they either knew the parties involved, had ties to St. Joseph’s, had personal histories or close friends and family members with histories of sexual abuse, had affiliation with support groups in the country that are targeted toward the families involved in this matter, or indicated strong feelings and preconceptions of guilt toward Moore.”

Britta K. Demello Rice, an assistant attorney general who is prosecuting the case, argued that the jury questionnaires did not reveal prejudice.

“Of the 25 that answered “yes” to Question No. 65 — acknowledging that they had heard about the case involving Everest Moore — 17 of the potential jurors had a neutral answer or no answer at all,” she wrote in a response. “This means a majority of potential jurors have not firmed an opinion about the case. Approximately five jurors had their minds made up about guilt or punishment, which was expressed in their answers.”

Demello Rice wrote that it was premature for the defense to claim there wasn’t any way to seat an impartial jury in the county. Rather, she said, the proper time was after potential jurors were questioned.

Moore’s attorneys, however, claimed that there was a possibility the bias expressed by some potential jurors would spread the bias.

“Were we to proceed with many of the responding potential jurors here, there is a high probability the proverbial horse would be let out of the barn, regardless of any attempts to “rehabilitate,” and would taint the remaining pool,” Martens wrote.

Moore, who taught for five years at St. Joseph Catholic School, was first arrested in March 2018 and charged with three class A felony counts of gross sexual imposition.

He was accused of inappropriately touching three girls.

Eventually, five further class A counts of gross sexual imposition were filed, with two coming in April and three more coming in June.

He has been free on bond since his initial arrest.

His trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 23.

Allied Concert Services  

The Annie Moses Band will perform on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at th Bakken Elementary Auditorium as the first concert of the season for the Williston Concert Association.

Salvation Army hopes to keep Williston warm with annual Coats for Kids campaign

The Salvation Army has begun their annual Coats for Kids campaign, continuing their long-standing tradition of providing warmth for hundreds of area children.

“There is perhaps a greater need than I think we really realize in Williston for warm winter clothing,” Lt. Rachel Irvine with the Salvation Army told the Williston Herald. “Kids grow so fast, and in some cases last year’s coat will not work for this year. There’s quite a large need in town for winter clothing, especially for kids.”

The Salvation Army is collecting any new or gently-used winter clothing until Oct. 17. Coats and other winter items can be dropped off at both Western Cooperative Credit Union locations, American State Bank, Trinity Christian School, Red Rock Ford, Williston Auto, Model Cleaners, the Williston ARC, Country Floral, Cummins Sales and Service, and Northgate Apartments.

Don’t have any items to donate but still want to help? Irvine said monetary donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army office at 15 Main Street, and those funds will be used to purchase winter items.

In addition to collecting items, the Irvines said the Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to assist with the coat distribution, which will take place beginning Oct. 5 and last until all items are gone. Volunteers would assist patrons in finding the materials they need, as well as making sure items are cataloged.

Interested volunteers can contact the Salvation Army office at 701-572-2921 for more information.

The Salvation Army office is open from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon. to Fri.

With more people coming to the area, the need for winter items has increased steadily, which is why Irvine said the Salvation Army is making a stronger push for donations to the campaign.

“We’re just here to keep Williston warm,” Irvine said. “We’re trying to help the community survive the winter, because by all indications I think it’s going to be pretty rough. So we want to make sure that we’re keeping it in the public eye so they are aware of this need.”

Check the Salvation Army Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SAWilliston for more information on the Coats for Kids campaign and an up-to-date list of places to drop off items.

DNA analysis leads to charges in 2016 DAPL protest

BISMARCK — Authorities say DNA collected from a cigarette butt in 2016 at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest site is from a South Dakota man who took part in a riot that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Lawrence Malcolm Jr., 23, of Sisseton, S.D., is charged in Morton County with felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and a misdemeanor count of engaging in a riot, court documents show.

An arrest warrant for Malcolm was issued Thursday, Sept. 5. No attorney was listed for him in court documents.

The charges relate to a Sept. 6, 2016, incident in which North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents were called to assist the Morton County Sheriff’s Department at a site on County Road 135. More than 100 protesters, many with their faces covered, shut down construction and vandalized equipment, a BCI affidavit says.

Damage to equipment that day was estimated to be “into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the affidavit says.

BCI agents gathered evidence after the incident, including two cigarette butts that were sent to the State Crime Lab for analysis.

In August, the BCI was notified that the DNA profile from one of the butts was a match for Malcolm, whose DNA sample was on file from a previous arrest.