As oil production continues to boom in the Powder River Basin, illegal wastewater dumping is a growing problem. Kodiak Oilfield in Converse County was recently cited for illegally dumping produced water, one of 14 water violations in the state so far this year.
Oil fields typically produce about twice as much water as they do oil – water that is high in sodium content and contains hydrocarbons. Dumping this water into streams, rivers, or fields could interfere with natural habitat, soil, and water quality.
Joe Hunter, with Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality, says as the industry grows, so does the likelihood of potential water violations.
"This oil boom or whatever you want to call it is still gaining momentum so I mean the potential is there for this problem to increase so just for the public just keep your eyes open and if you do see something that looks suspicious you know get us as much information as you can and we’ll take it from there."
Hunter says many companies will dump illegally to avoid fees at waste disposal sites, and that it’s difficult to catch violators because illegal water dumping often happens on back roads.