WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published August 24, 2012, 08:47 PM

UND to Study Human Impact of Oil Boom

UND researchers are taking a closer look at the North Dakota Oil patch man camps, studying the human impact of the oil boom.

By: Christine Boggy, WDAZ

UND researchers are taking a closer look at the North Dakota Oil patch man camps, studying the human impact of the oil boom.

Two North Dakota faculty members and their team did a five-day study to document and analyze the unique environment of temporary camps in oil fields. This is the first archeological and historical study to be done in the Bakken and the team received a great deal of data that still needs to be fully analyzed.

As jobs in the oil fields continue to grow the need for housing grows as well but conditions in many of those so called man camps are far from ideal.

Bill Caraher, UND Associate Professor of History: “Stuff that was just almost inconceivable in this day and age. People living in tents and run down RVs sometimes without electricity, sometimes without water.”

The team documented more than a dozen camps and identified three different types. Type one being fairly nice and containing highly skilled workers, type two consisting of mostly RV's with electricity and water and type three having tents and limited access to electricity and water. It sounds as if type one would be ideal but they had limitations unlike type two and three.

Bret Weber, UND Associate Professor, Department of Social Work: “Institutional camps had the nicest conditions in terms of being clean, having water and sewage and they were even fed however a lot of the workers looked forward to getting out of those camps. There were limited opportunities for socialization, you can’t have friends over and no alcohol in those camps.

Type two and three on the other hand can and have somewhat developed themselves into their own version of a suburban neighborhood.

Caraher: “There are RV's out there that have almost doubled in size by adding mudroom, decks on the sides, a few of them had yards, children play areas, rooms for pets and things like that.”

Temporary housing of course is inevitable in this type of situation but the goal of this study was to not only produce data that will help guide policy makers but to collect data to put this into a historical perspective.

Caraher: “Maybe by looking at what goes on in western north Dakota now where we can kind of go out now when this is taking place and document it carefully we can inform our interpretations of historical periods and other events.”

They still need to review all of the data that has been collected but they hope to have information available to the public by October.