The Bismarck Tribune’s Oct. 1 article, “Recent brine spill highlights concern about pipeline material,” focuses problems my union — Laborers Local 563 — has been actively alerting companies, contractors and state agencies about for years. The fact that spills continue should be no surprise when you consider that, too often, gathering pipeline installation during the Bakken boom suffered from shoddy workmanship, questionable materials and lack of oversight.
I’ve worked in a multitude of roles as a union pipeliner since 1979 and even spent a short stint with the state as a pipeline inspector. Fly-by-night contractors flooded the state during the boom, and too many installed gathering pipelines like thieves in the night. Our members have spoken to nonunion workers who laid gathering lines and heard horror stories of improper installation and backfill procedures.
If we have another boom in the patch, can we assure landowners that poor materials and substandard contractors won’t mess up the land for generations to come? We can’t turn back time, but heart-of-the-Bakken landowners can demand to know what kind of pipe crosses their land and who installed it.
There is no reason the pipe material or the name of the contractor should be deemed "confidential" and withheld from the public. That information should be made available to any North Dakotan who wants to know what is being installed on their land or near waterways and groundwater reservoirs.
Pipeline owners and contractors need to meet all current standards and go above and beyond for the reputation of the pipeline industry, and the long-term sustainability and protection of our state’s most valuable resources — water and land.
Van Bryson, Mandan