The massive amount of saltwater generated by drilling is the largest spill in the state since the current oil boom began in 2006, officials said.
In this photo taken Jan. 12, 2015, crews dig up land at a saltwater spill site near Blacktail Creek outside Williston, North Dakota.
AP Photo/Williston Herald, Zack Nelson
Nearly 3 millions gallons of brine from oil drilling was leaked in North Dakota, an official said Wednesday. Brine is an unwanted byproduct of oil that is saltier than ocean water and often contains residue from petroleum.
Operators of the pipeline, Summit Midwestern partners LLC, said they detected the leak on Jan. 6 outside of the town Williston. Officials said they weren't aware of the full size of the spill until Tuesday.
It is not clear exactly when the leak started or what caused the initial rupture. The portion of damaged pipeline has been sent to a lab to determine what happened.
The leak reached at least two waterways: Blacktail Creek and Little Muddy Creek.
Oil wells in Alexander, North Dakota, are seen on March 21, 2014. A day earlier, a pipeline owned by Oklahoma-based Hiland Crude LLC broke nearby, spewing about 34,000 gallons of crude oil.
AP Photo / Josh Wood
Two creeks have been impacted by the brine, which may have also reached the Missouri River.
The full environmental effect might not be clear for months because it is difficult to measure until the ice melts, Dave Glatt, chief of environmental health at North Dakota's Department of Health, told the Associated Press.
“This is not something we want to happen in North Dakota,” Glatt said.
Currently, the spill is not threatening drinking water. Glatt said some farmers have requested their livestock be kept away from the two creeks.