- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ANTLER, N.D. (AP) - Landowners dealing with the effects of years of oil and saltwater spills in north-central North Dakota want better enforcement of state regulations regarding energy development.

The concerned landowners in Bottineau County, along the Canadian border, say some properties have salt levels so high that even weeds won’t grow. Many of them believe oil wells built as early as the 1950s are causing the salt spills, and they say working with oil companies to rectify problems can be difficult.

“With the amount of old, deteriorating infrastructure out there, we have to be able to hold somebody responsible. The oil companies, they kind of walk away from that,” said Ken Sletten, who lives in Souris.

State Environmental Health Chief Dave Glatt met on Tuesday with members of the Northwest Landowners Association, along with local legislators. Glatt said the Health Department is committed to locating leaks and spills, and getting the land cleaned up. He also said the Legislature will be considering saltwater reclamation procedures next year.

“If we can get 80 percent of the people to the table to start talking about this, that’s a start,” Glatt said. “Bottineau County is the future of the Bakken if we don’t address it.”

Antler resident Robert Artz said officials also should be focusing on preventing future spills.

“They don’t understand what this land means to us,” he said. “There’s a lot more accidents waiting to happen. Let’s prevent it. If they have a fine coming, nail them to the wall.”

Glatt and the landowners agreed that more regulations weren’t the answer.

“I am not in favor of any more regulations. Enforcement is what we need,” said Pete Artz, of Antler. “All we ask is that they do it right. Let’s take care of the land for the next generation.”

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