Water spill in Burke County impacts farmland

BISMARCK — An estimated 83,000 gallons of produced water spilled at a gas plant in Burke County, N.D., and impacted nearby farmland after an abandoned disposal well began leaking, according to a news release from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Produced water is a mixture of saltwater, oil and sometimes, drilling fluids, that is created during oil and gas production.

The spill occurred at the Lignite Gas Plant about 10 miles from the Canadian border. The plant is owned by Calgary, Alta.-based Steel Reef, LLC. The spill happened on Sunday, Nov. 24, and Steel Reef reported it the same day, but the department did not announce it until Monday, Dec. 2.

Department officials will continue inspecting the site and monitoring remediation efforts.

ND man sentenced to five years probation for solicitation of a minor

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A Grand Forks man was sentenced Monday, Dec. 2, to five years of supervised probation for soliciting a minor.

Derek James Mortrud, 33, submitted an Alford plea Monday afternoon, meaning he maintains his innocence but admits there are sufficient facts for a jury to find him guilty. He also will pay $525 in court fees and will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years. He was ordered not to contact the victim or the juvenile who reported the crime.

The class C felony carries a maximum five-year sentence or $10,000 or both. It was reduced from a class A felony charge of gross sexual imposition as part of the plea agreement.

According to an affidavit for Mortrud's arrest, the sexual assault allegation was brought forward by a child known by the victim. The child, known as Joe Doe, told an elementary school counselor Mortrud had molested the victim, Jane Doe, in 2017. Court documents indicated the counselor reported the admission to police immediately and Jane Doe was interviewed by police the following day.

Jane Doe, who is younger than 15, told police that Mortrud had assaulted her about four months earlier. The affidavit also said that Joe Doe told police that Mortrud "basically raped (Jane Doe)" and "he should go to jail."

Wahpeton man charged with negligent homicide in nephew's death

WAHPETON, N.D. — A Wahpeton man was in custody Monday, Dec. 2, after he allegedly killed his nephew during a fight, according to Richland County court documents.

The affidavit for the criminal case says on Nov. 29 James Bynaum and his nephew Oscar Bynaum got into an argument at a Wahpeton apartment building. Oscar started punching holes in walls and eventually got into a fight with James.

During the fight, James put Oscar into a chokehold until he went limp and then left the apartment without checking on his well-being, the affidavit said. Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson said James left for the home of a nearby relative to calm down.

No one returned to check on Oscar Bynaum until the afternoon of Nov. 30, when he was found dead, according to court documents. A preliminary medical examiner's investigation found that the manner of his death was consistent with being strangled.

James Bynaum is being charged with negligent homicide. He made his initial appearance in Richland County on Monday, where his bail was set at $10,000 after prosecutors requested that the judge set it at $500,000.

Bynaum, who was brought into court in a wheelchair, declined to comment.

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