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North Dakota health regulators seek input on permits for bioremediation of oil spills

A ruptured pipeline caused when a hillside slumped spilled 12,600 barrels of oil into a creek in Billings County near Belfield, N.D., in December 2016. Special to The Forum / North Dakota Department of Health

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health is seeking input on establishing a new permit system for alternative methods of cleaning up oil and other hydrocarbon spills.

An informational meeting scheduled next week comes as one company has a pilot project to use bioremediation, also known as landfarming, to remove spilled oil and allow the soil to be reused.

The company, Targa Resources, is permitted through the Department of Health for the landfarming project near Alexander in McKenzie County to restore soil that was contaminated by an oil pipeline spill.

The project involves introducing naturally occurring microbes, or bugs, that break down the hydrocarbons in the soil. The goal is to reuse the soil rather than hauling it to a landfill.

David McQuade, senior environmental director for Targa, told a legislative committee earlier this year that the current permitting process should be streamlined to encourage more companies to consider bioremediation.

Health officials are taking input as they consider establishing permits for bioremediation of spilled material contaminated with unrefined or refined hydrocarbons.

The agency will hold an informational meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the department’s Environmental Training Center in Bismarck. It’s also possible to attend by phone by calling 866-716-0894.

The department encourages people to email by Monday if they plan to attend via phone or in person. Input also will be accepted via email at through Dec. 21.

More information is available at

If the agency decides to propose new rules, there would be another opportunity for public comment.