On January 6th a pipeline near Williston, North Dakota started leaking brine, a by-product of hydraulic fracturing; this leak has now reached the Missouri River and is the largest saltwater spill in the state’s history.

The brine from hydraulic fracturing or fracking as it is more commonly called, is far saltier than seawater and can also contain other fracking fluids and petroleum.

According to State health official Dave Glatt, given the size and volume of the Missouri River, the contaminants ae quickly diluted. Karl Rockeman, the director of water quality at the Department of Health, disagrees however, saying that “high readings” of contamination were found where the Little Muddy River empties into the Missouri.

Between 2006 and October 2014, 70.5 million litres of oil and chemical substances have leaked into the North Dakotan air, water and soil according to a Times investigation. The number of spills has risen sharply since 2006, and the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana recently saw a 190,000 litre oil spill, the second oil spill in the river in four years.

While clean-up has already been started, it is feared that the contaminated water that is trapped under the ice could slow down the process considerably. Fracking spills and Oil spills in North Dakota have already proven to be extremely difficult to clean up. Testament to this is the fact that a 2006 spill near the town of Alexander is still in the process of being cleaned.

This latest spill has prompted North Dakota Democrats to call for increased monitoring and regulation of the fracking industry.

Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, told the Associated Press, “It should not take a 3 million gallon spill to realize that this monitoring is needed. If North Dakota does not get this under control, the feds are going to step in and do it for us. And nothing is going to slow the oil industry down like the federal government. We want to protect our environment first and foremost but this also will be good for industry in the long run.

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