The U.S. Department of Justice indicted a former saltwater disposal well operator on 13 felony charges tied to the operation of a saltwater disposal well in Stark County, North Dakota.
Jason A. Halek, 41, of Southlake, Texas, was indicted in federal court in Bismarck, North Dakota on one count of conspiracy to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act and defraud the United States, the DOJ said on Monday.
He was also charged with four counts of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act, four counts of making false statements and four counts of obstructing grand jury proceedings.
The well, named the Halek 5-22, received produced water containing brine and other waste fluids including hydraulic fracturing fluid.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this water is often saltier than seawater and can “contain toxic metals and radioactive substances.”
Nathan Garber pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts relating to the well on September 26, 2014.
According to the indictment, Halek conspired with others, including Garber, in a number of coordinated and illegal acts, including injecting saltwater into the well without first having the state of North Dakota witness a test of the well’s integrity and continuing to inject saltwater after failing a February 2012 pressure test.
Halek is charged under the Safe Drinking Water Act with injecting fluids down the “annulus” or “backside” of the well in violation of the well’s permit that required fluids be injected through the tubing.
He is also charged with telling Graber to move a device known as a “packer” up the wellbore in violation of the well’s permit, without first getting approval from the state.
Garber allegedly gave false information to a state inspector regarding the depth of the packer.
Halek is also charged with making multiple false statements to the state of North Dakota, including false statements about the depth of the packer.
Additionally, he has been charged with obstructing and impeding a grand jury investigation into the matter, by withholding responsive documents and making false statements.
“Our nation’s energy independence and security is enhanced by the safe, responsible, and lawful extraction of domestic energy, but it is undermined when laws are abused in a race to profit,” John C. Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said.