On Monday, the Justice Department announced that two saltwater disposal well operators had been sentenced in North Dakota on felony charges stemming from the operation of a saltwater disposal well near Dickinson, North Dakota. 44-year-old Jason A. Halek of Southlake, Texas was sentenced to three years of supervised release. He has also been ordered to pay a fine of $50,000. Halek will be placed in a halfway house for up to one year as a result of the sentencing. He previously pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act on April 12, 2017.
48-year-old Nathan R. Garber of Kalispell, Montana was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Garber pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act and defraud the United States on September 26, 2014. Garber also pleaded guilty to five counts of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act, one count of concealment or cover up of a tangible object, two counts of falsification of records, and two counts of making false statements.
The saltwater disposal well was named the Halek 5-22. It received brine and other wastes often referred to as “saltwater” from oil and gas operations. A permit is needed for underground injection into a saltwater disposal. The permit will typically impose requirements on the well’s operations to ensure that underground drinking water sources are not impacted by the saltwater.
Halek ultimately admitted to injecting saltwater into the well, without first allowing the state of North Dakota to witness a test of the well’s integrity. These tests are designed to protect groundwater by determining whether or not there are any significant leaks or fluid movement in the well. The well’s permit required the fluids to be injected through tubing. However, Halek admitted that the fluids were injected down the annulus or backside of the well.
Halek also admitted to failing to provide the state with written notice of the date of the first injection into the well. Garber admitted to conspiring with others and partaking in a number of illegal acts. Garber injected saltwater into the well, without allowing the state of North Dakota to witness a test first. He also violated a February 2012 order to stop injections until a well integrity test was carried out. When asked about the violations, Garber made false statements by denying that any injections had occurred.
A well pressure test failed in February of 2012. Nevertheless, Garber continued injecting saltwater. Additional details about the crimes can be found here.