July 2, 2008

Dumping of Brine Water Investigated

By Victor Skinner, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Jul. 2--KALKASKA -- Investigators are working to identify those responsible for illegally dumping thousands of gallons of brine water in Kalkaska County.

Officials with Arrow Energy Services, a local oil drilling and heavy equipment operation, reported a large brine water discharge to the state Department of Environmental Quality and Kalkaska County Sheriff's Department on June 21.

Sheriff's deputies photographed tire tracks leading from a field near one of Arrow's yards where officials believe a truck dumped a large amount of the liquid, which ran into a ditch along about a quarter-mile section of Wood Road just east of U.S. 131, Undersheriff Bruce Gualtiere said.

"It is not like someone pulled out of their yard and it was leaking," said Gualtiere, who does not believe Arrow is responsible.

"If they are doing it in proximity to Arrow's shop, somebody is probably trying to make them look bad. There are not a whole lot of places that transport this locally."

DEQ investigators took samples of the liquid to confirm the substance is brine, an oil drilling byproduct that mostly is saltwater. Illegally dumping brine can be a felony offense, depending on the amount and circumstances of the discharge.

"Chloride is the major constituent that is the problem. It could be toxic to some plants and if it gets into the ground water ... it can impact the water well," said Rick Henderson, a DEQ district supervisor in Cadillac.

"Right now we don't know how big (the spill) is exactly," he said.

Henderson refused to discuss potential suspects or details of the investigation.

Lee Jenkins, truck manager for Arrow, said he and several other workers spent about 12 hours removing around 140 to 150 yards of soil contaminated from the spill. Jenkins estimates the cleanup cost the company more than $10,000. He said Arrow was not the source.

"It wasn't from our facility ... someone dumped it from a truck," he said. "We know it wasn't one of ours because we ... log our trucks every day. We just took it upon ourselves to get it out of there."

Jenkins believes at least 2,500 gallons of the salty solution ended up along the roadway. It typically is disposed of down a well, he said.

Arrow decided to quickly clean the spill instead of waiting for government aid because of the proximity to the business and brine's potential hazards, Jenkins said.

"The DEQ wouldn't fund it and the county wouldn't pay for it," he said. "We all live and work in the area. Somebody has to get it cleaned up. It's close to my boss' property."

Anyone with information on the illegal discharge may contact the sheriff's department at 258-3350.


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