WHITE SHIELD, N.D. — A tribal committee shut down construction of a landfill for oil waste on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation 10 days after its owner said he started dirt work.
The cease and desist order was issued Monday at noon. By the end of the day, project owner Marvin Danks of New Town had a dozen pieces of heavy equipment idled at the site midway between Parshall and White Shield on state Highway 1804.
The shutdown was requested by the tribe’s environmental director, Edmund Baker, who said Danks’ project needs a permit and an environmental review first.
The committee agreed. A public comment period, in effect until May 8, got jump-started Tuesday at a special packed-hall community meeting attended by more than 200 people in White Shield.
It was hot from the start, with cries and table-pounding in opposition to the project.
Delores White said Danks can’t put back what he already destroyed at the site, with earthwork that people say started longer ago than Danks is admitting.
“How are you going put back the earth, the ground, the sage? How are you going to put that back?” White asked. “We’re not going to have your waste. We’re not going to.”
Jody L. White agreed. “We don’t want this in White Shield. You put it on your land if it’s so safe,” she said. The waste will have chemicals, heavy metals and possible radioactivity, she said.
Baker said the tribes have a permit process and it wasn’t followed.
“We want people to learn a lesson from this. The procedures have to be followed,” Baker said. “I’ve got to do this by the book and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Danks, who maintained his composure under very vocal attack, said he will pay the $60,000 permit fee for a third-party environmental assessment and do whatever is required by the committee and tribal code.
No community members spoke in his support.
Danks said he has three other business partners, including McLean County Sheriff Don Charging, to consult. He said he got caught in a pinch of turnover at the environmental office and was told by both the tribal council and the committee that he could proceed without a permit, at his own risk.
“I took that chance. This is solely on me,” he said. “Time is money and I wanted to do the construction and the day I got the permit, go to work.”
Danks said the shutdown caught him by surprise.
“If I had thought there would be a shutdown, I would have never started,” he said.
Segment chairman Waylon Good Left said he’s against an environmental and health risk to the community.
“Why bring it to us? Is that what you think of us? The oil’s up there (pointing northwest),” he said.
Wilbur Wilkinson accused Danks of trespassing.
“That’s tribal trust land. He doesn’t own it, he doesn’t lease it, he’s trespassing,” Wilkinson said. “This is our home and we will not allow this to be a garbage dump for any oil company.”
Danks said he swapped other land for tribal land.
Marty Young Bear said after firing everyone up, Danks should bow out.
“The community doesn’t want this. Don’t go forward,” he said.
Tribal council member Fred Fox, who represents the White Shield area, said the decision won’t be up to the tribal council, or the committee.
“This will be up to the people of White Shield. It will be handled here,” said Fox, who is on the Natural Resources Committee. He said he thought the matter was being handled by the environmental department.
Fox said the committee decided Monday that all oil and gas waste has to be hauled off the reservation and will take that recommendation to the tribal council. “We don’t want this problem ever again,” Fox said.
Danks said he’s hired Bartlett & West Engineers and a reputable landfill design company to build an over-engineered, environmentally responsible landfill.
Engineer Ryan Waters said some aspects of the project will exceed state standards.
He’s planning a 40-acre site with initial capacity for 100,000 cubic yards of primarily drill cuttings and mud placed in a pit with compacted clay and a heavy thick plastic liner.
Danks said he expects 15 to 20 semi loads a day.