Despite finding trace amounts of hydrocarbons in Williston’s drinking water, officials are reporting that it is still safe to drink.
According to a report from The Williston Herald, Public Works Director David Tuan said, “During this period there are trace amounts of hydrocarbons in the water that are producing an odor. It is still small enough that it is safe to consume. People may not want to consume it, which is understandable because it tastes bad and smells bad, but it is safe to consume.”
City officials are currently unsure if the increased levels of hydrocarbons in the water supply are from the recent oil spill in Glendive, Montana, or if they water has been tainted from a different source. Last week, a pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline LLC ruptured and released an estimated 40,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. The spill occurred about 50 river miles away from North Dakota where the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers meet.
After the spill, Glendive officials shut down the water treatment plant and measured hydrocarbon contents at levels of 15 parts per billion (ppb). In Williston, the highest readings reached 3.39 ppb and have been dropping since the measurement was taken. The state cut off level for hydrocarbon content in water is five ppb.
Tuan said, “Water quality has nothing to do with the smell, color and odor … Your water could be yellow, blue or smelly and still be safe. In the spring, water can have a musty smell during the runoff period,” reports The Herald. It takes about two days for water to travel from the water treatment plant to the tap. The odor, coming days after the spill in Glendive, could be the culprit. Tuan said, “It could be a lag effect to get through the system.” However, officials are still uncertain if the spill in Glendive is the cause. The EPA is reporting that no oil has come into North Dakota so officials are unable to assume the spill is to blame.
Although Tuan said the state may not find the culprit of the spike, the treatment plant will continue monitoring the distribution system to ensure its safety. Williston Mayor Howard Klug said the state is extremely concerned about the effects of the spill and the quality of drinking water. The Herald reports that Governor Jack Dalrymple spoke with Klug and said the state is actively helping the city. The Department of Health, which has about five employees in the area to assist with testing, will aid the city to ensure all complaints are properly addressed.