This story has been updated to add that the spilled material is considered to be TENORM, and that not all the proppant bags are inside the fence. The company was also emailed but has not yet responded.
North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality is in the midst of an enforcement action against a proppant warehouse on the east side of Williston.
Some of the bags containing hydraulic fracturing proppant at the Sea Pacific International Trading Company in Williston, North Dakota were sitting outside in the elements and have deteriorated as a result, DEQ Director Dave Glatt told the Williston Herald. The proppant from those bags is sitting in small piles around the facility beginning in 2019.
“We have been dealing with these guys for a couple of years,” Glatt said. “And we got them to clean up some of it. But finally there was a lull, and so we’re taking enforcement action against them.”
Enforcement actions in North Dakota begin with a notice to the company outlining the specifics of the violation or violations, and encouraging the company to work with the agency to develop a consent agreement which includes an appropriate cleanup plan.
Glatt said the notice was sent in April, and at this point the state is awaiting a cleanup plan from the company. The enforcement action will include a timeline for the cleanup, as well as potential penalties if the company fails to follow through in a timely enough manner.
“We have not finalized that enforcement action at this point in time,” Glatt said. “We are in communication with them, though, to submit a cleanup plan.”
Glatt said the state is not yet ready to finalize its enforcement action, but is getting close to that point. He believes they will have a consent agreement by August.
The proppant itself does not present an immediate hazard to the public, Glatt said, although it does have some radioactivity from the bauxite used to make it.
Bauxite contains naturally occurring radioactive material that has been slightly concentrated through the manufacturing process. It is at a low level, however, and the type of radiation wave is very localized to the material itself, Glatt said. The proppant particles themselves are also generally dense enough that they aren’t likely to blow around.
“The frac sand does have a radioactive footprint, but it is you know basically a foot or two away from it and you don’t get any readings at all,” he added “So for you to be impacted by it, you’d have to lay in it and roll around in it.”
The warehouse itself has a fence and a locked gate, Glatt said, which keeps the general public away from the site and the majority of the spilled proppant. There are some bags outside the fence near a small creek. The state plans to prioritize cleanup of those first, due to their proximity to water and because they are outside the fence.
Glatt did not know how much proppant was released at the site or is still sitting out, but said the state will continue to inspect the location periodically as they work out a resolution through its pending enforcement action.
The company was emailed for a comment but has not yet replied.