Saltwater Disposal Well Operator Pleads Guilty to Multiple Felony Charges in Connection with Operation of Well
Jason A. Halek, 43, of Southlake, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Bismarck, North Dakota, to three felony charges stemming from the operation of a saltwater disposal well near Dickinson, in Stark County, North Dakota, the Justice Department announced. Halek pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The well, named the Halek 5-22, received “produced water” constituting “brine and other wastes” commonly and generically referred to as “saltwater.” “Saltwater” in this context covers a wide array of drilling waste fluids, including hydraulic fracturing fluid, which is water combined with chemical additives such as biocides, polymers and “weak acids.”
According to an agreed upon factual statement filed in court, Halek admitted to injecting saltwater into the well without first having the state of North Dakota witness a test of the well’s integrity, which is necessary to protect drinking water. Halek also admitted injecting fluids down the “annulus” or “backside” of the well in violation of the well’s permit which required that fluids be injected through the tubing. Finally, Halek also admitted to failing to provide written notice to the state of the date of first injection into the well.
Previously, on Sept. 26, 2014, Nathan R. Garber pleaded guilty to various charges related to the operation of the well. Sentencing for Halek and Garber is scheduled for July 31, 2017.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. Significant cooperation was provided by the State of North Dakota and the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC). The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.