Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

September 19, 2013

Editorial: Ban brine use until there's better answers

Team Services LLC’s explanation that it doesn’t have an explanation for how oil-field brine classified as industrial waste got sprayed onto some roads in Benzie County is unacceptable.

And for now, unacceptable should mean testing of all oilfield brine before it is applied to roads anywhere in the state; if it doesn’t pass muster, it can’t be used. Testing should be mandatory until the state creates a foolproof system to ensure that the stuff being sprayed on a road is what it is claimed to be, and nothing else.

In the meantime, state officials must still find out what happened in Benzie, determine the possible environmental repercussions, and explain to the public why there weren’t safeguards in place to prevent such an incident in the first place.

This is not a new process. Brine and other materials - many of them toxic or even known carcinogens - have been sprayed on dirt roads to keep down the dust in the summer for decades. So how is it that the state doesn’t have better controls in place to ensure that what is being sprayed is safe?

Team Services’ Steve Kwapis wrote in a letter to the Deparment of Environmental Quality that it is “difficult to determine” how the contaminated brine was applied in Benzie County because of the time between the application and when Team Services was notified of the problem.

“Either human error or a contaminated source well are the most likely causes,” Kwapis wrote.

The bad brine came from a storage facility at a disposal well in Manistee County that is connected to seven linked storage tanks that hold everything from skim oil to road brine. Contamination could have occurred anywhere from one of the originating wells to the storage facility or one of the trucks used to haul the stuff, DEQ officials said.

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