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Pipeline leaks saltwater in Badlands south of Medora

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MEDORA, ND -- Continental Resources will submit a plan to clean up a pipeline leak that spilled about 560 barrels of saltwater in the Badlands about 10 miles south of here, the North Dakota Department of Health said.

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Continental Resources personnel discovered the pipeline leak Friday morning, which is estimated to be 560 barrels, or 23,520 gallons, said Kris Roberts, environmental response team leader.

"It looks like it was leaking for about 12 hours," Roberts said.

About 100 barrels, or 4,200 gallons, is estimated to have been recovered, Roberts said. A good portion of the release was absorbed in a dry drainage area, he said.

Some of the spill reached the extreme headwaters of Merrifield Creek, Roberts said. That creek flows into the Little Missouri River, but it's unlikely that any trace of the saltwater will be detected in the river, Roberts said.

"Dilution is not the solution to pollution, but in this case it might end up being the best we can do," Roberts said.

'Extraordinary place' unaffected

The spill occurred about one mile from Tracy Mountain, on the North Dakota Industrial Commission's list of "extraordinary places," but there is no potential for the mountain to be affected by the spill, Roberts said. The Industrial Commission adopted a list of places that warrant consideration for extra protection from oil and gas development.

Tom Oddie, Continental's vice president of health, safety, security and environment, said daily operational checks of flowline pressure and rate alert personnel to potential incidents.

"Upon discovering the release, Continental immediately shut in the flowline and constructed berms to contain and prevent any further release," Oddie said in a statement, adding that state officials and the landowner were promptly notified.

The company will work with the Department of Health on a plan to remediate the site, which is in "extreme Badlands terrain," Roberts said.

The incident is under investigation, Oddie said.

Roberts said the spring thaw may have caused the ground to move and the underground pipeline to break.

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