CS Masthead

One Injury Reported In Amtrak Derailment Near Bainville Monday


A passenger took this photo shortly after the derailment that shows one of the two passenger cars off the track and damaged track.         (Photo by Susan Cook, Amtrak Passenger)

One person was hospitalized when two passenger cars on Amtrak’s Minneapolis to Portland and Seattle Empire Builder route derailed near Bainville Monday, April 28.
The westbound cars went off the track at a switch about 2 p.m. Both cars remained upright.
Amtrak reported that 117 passengers were onboard the 13-car train.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was delayed three and a half hours. It was held temporarily at Culbertson.
An eastbound Amtrak train was delayed 15 hours while a crew from Burlington Northern/Santa Fe repaired damaged track.
“One passenger was looked at the scene by EMS and then looked at Roosevelt Medical Center in Culbertson,” Magliari said.
The unidentified passenger was released from the hospital.
“The tracks were closed because of track damage and disabled cars and reopened this morning,” Magliari said Tuesday, April 29.
Matt Jones, BNSF director of public affairs, said the track was returned to service at 5 a.m.
He said he did not immediately have an estimate of the cost of the damage.
“There could be delays of 36 hours on shipments on this corridor,” Jones said.
Roosevelt County emergency management, sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical personnel responded to the scene.
“We appreciate the reactions of the local emergency responders,” Magliari said.
The Montana Department of Transportation closed Montana Hwy. 327 near the derailment and set up a detour for motor vehicle traffic.
The cause of the derailment remains under investigation by Amtrak and the BNSF.

DEQ Seeks Compliance From Suspected Bainville Radioactive Dump


This unpermitted waste dump near Bainville continues to operate according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.                                    (Submitted photo)

The state of Montana is seeking environmental compliance by a Louisiana company that operates a Bakken oilfield waste dump near Bainville that is suspected to be a radioactive site. Non-compliance could mean shuttering the facility.
The Department of Environmental Quality recently sent a letter to Dual Trucking and Transport, of Houma, La., seeking compliance that includes permitting.
DEQ Enforcement Division administrator John Arrigo said the state regulatory agency first received complaints about the facility during April, May and June 2012.
DEQ recommended that Dual Transport halt operations in September 2012 until the company obtained a permit. DEQ also told Dual to hire a qualified consultant to develop a cleanup plan.
The company later began the permit process, but then declined state requests for further information, later informing DEQ the company was no longer processing oilfield waste and didn’t need a permit.
“We sent them a deficiency in November and they have not replied to that, so the application is not completed and we cannot issue a license,” Arrigo said.
Arrigo said Monday, April 28, that he believed the facility was continuing to operate.
He said Dual Transport’s attorney sent DEQ a letter alleging that the company is no longer processing solid waste and does not need a license.
“On April 11, an inspector visited and they were operating and cleaning up,” he said.
“[Dual] told us they are removing contaminated soil and disposing of it in Canada,” Arrigo said and added that the DEQ was not informed of where in Canada.
He said oil and gas exploration materials are exempt from federal requirements that require placards on trucks. He said he did not know what Canadian requirements are.
“If they don’t voluntarily shut down, they are in violation,” Arrigo said.
The DEQ cannot go in and close the facility without court approval.
“We have to go to court and have a judge issue an injunction,” Arrigo said.
“If we can allege a threat to the environment, the chances of shutting them down are better,” he said.
Waste that is classified as NORM is slightly radioactive, containing naturally occurring radioactive material. Oilfield waste contains radon, which is a gas. The other radioactive substance is radium, a solid. Both give off radioactive particles.
North Dakota produces the majority of oil field waste in the region, but lacks a radioactive waste facility.
Montana allows higher levels of radioactive waste than North Dakota.
Four Montana waste handlers have applied for permits, including one landfill near Glendive that is already operational.
Arrigo also expressed concern that the site is in close proximity to a wetlands that could be threatened by storm water runoff and within a few hundred yards of a residential development.
Arrigo said he did not know if the waste comes from drilling operations in Montana or if it is generated in North Dakota. He acknowledged that the majority of Bakken drilling is on the North Dakota side of the border.
“We don’t know what they are doing. We don’t know what they are considering clean. We don’t know what they are reburying,” Arrigo said. “We need to pin down the facts and have them stop until it is assessed.”

DEQ Begins Process To Permit Culbertson Radioactive Waste Dump

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality began a permitting process during February that could eventually allow Clay Butte, a Minnesota company, to establish a radioactive Bakken Oilfield waste dump near Culbertson.
The proposed disposal site would be placed on 149 acres of a 160-acre site on the west side of Montana Hwy. 16, about five miles north of Culbertson.
There are at least 12 residences within one mile of the site.
“It’s going through the completeness review process,” Rick Thompson, DEQ section supervisor, said Monday, April 28. He added that the application was submitted to the state regulatory agency about two months ago.
“Questions will be asked for the applicant to respond back to us. An environmental assessment for public comment will be the next step,” Thompson said.
“It could take over a year. It varies for each facility,” he said.
Thompson said a public meeting is likely in Culbertson at some point in the future.
Waste at the proposed site could contain material that is known by the acronym NORM (reoccurring radioactive material). It comes from drilling site mud, drill cuttings and oil filter socks that fluid runs through.
Waste that is classified as NORM is slightly radioactive, containing naturally occurring radioactive material. Oilfield waste contains radon, which is a gas. The other radioactive substance is radium, a solid. Both give off radioactive particles.
North Dakota produces the majority of oil field waste in the region, but lacks a radioactive waste facility.
Montana allows higher levels of radioactive waste than North Dakota.
Four Montana waste handlers have applied for permits, including one landfill near Glendive that is already operational.
Culbertson Mayor Gordon Oelkers has expressed concern about the proposal. He said recently that he believes the DEQ will approve the proposal.

Tons Of Fertilizer Shipped To Roosevelt County


Empty Bin
Ag Partners’ Pat Wilkinson stands in a large bin hours before it was filled with fertilizer. Off loading from the 109 freight cars took nearly a full day. Joe Robinson sits in the loader.     (Photo by John Plestina)

Local farmers shouldn’t have to worry about getting fertilizer this year with a shipment of 11,445 tons in 109 freight cars that arrived at Ag Partners east of Wolf Point Friday, April 25.
It was the largest shipment ever from a Galveston, Texas, fertilizer plant.
Ag Partners orders a lot of fertilizer for customers, but it is rare to get a train that can accommodate a single shipment of that size.
“It’s a big thing, because the supply of fertilizer is pretty short right now,” Ag Partners’ Pat Wilkinson said.
“Logistics in this area makes it hard to get it,” general manager Brandon Babb said.
“Due to the Bakken [oilfield] and the increased demand for rail cars and crews, logistics have been tough on agriculture. That is one reason we ordered such a big train,” Babb said.
“The two main reasons why we chose to build this mega-plant is supply and speed. It is going to be key in the future to be able to have the supply in season and have the speed to get it transferred to the other Ag Partners plants as well as keeping our producers supplied,” Babb noted.
The fertilizer was pre-sold to area farmers between October and March.
Ag Partners, a 50-50 partnership between CHS Farmers Elevator and Agland Co-op, has locations throughout Montana including Nashua, Brockton, Vida, Froid, Circle and Glasgow.
Ag Partners began operation Jan. 1, 2012.
Services provided include delivery of fertilizers and chemicals, crop consulting, budgeting and planning, soil sampling, spray water analysis and on-farm trials.

Culbertson School Board Candidates Respond To Questions

Cassendra Bergum, Amanda Cullinan and Ronald Larsen are running for the Culbertson School Board. Bergum and Cullinan responded to a candidate questionnaire from The Searchlight.
Why did you declare yourself a candidate for the school board?
Bergum:I feel like I have a lot to offer in problem solving and outside the box thinking with the constant changing and growth our school is seeing.
Cullinan:I am currently serving as a member of the school board and wanted to continue to contribute to our school. Last August I was able to join the school board after a member resigned. I attended  K - 12 in Culbertson and felt like joining the board was a way to give back to the school that provided me with an excellent education. I feel that the committees I serve on with the board are a great fit for me. For example, I am the chair of the technology committee which is a perfect fit for me. I have a bachelors degree in Information Technology and worked in the IT field for almost six years before moving back to Culbertson.
What do you hope to accomplish as a school board member?
Bergum; My hopes are that I can be a productive member of a board that is responsible and proactive in managing the school’s issues.
Cullinan: For me it is important to see our school successfully grow and adapt to the growth in our community. We are lucky to have a great school and to provide each student with the attention they need. I think it is important that this continues as our school grows.
What do you see as being the major issues facing the school district?
Bergum: Growth is the major issue I believe, just like the rest of the area, Culbertson has had a large influx of kids into its school.  The revolving door of kids presents many challenges and I want to help deal with these.
Cullinan: I think our biggest issue is how fast our school is growing. So far this year we have had 67 students leave/join our school. Making some of our class sizes rather large. To adjust to this the board already as plans to add on to the elementary to have two classes for each grade. Luckily for our school all of this can be done with the oil and gas money our school receives.
What areas of the school system do you feel are the most in need of improvement?  How would you address those areas?
Bergum: Staffing and housing for staff is number one on my list of things that need to be improved.  Education begins with the people that are interacting with the kids every day.  From the playground aides to the superintendent, every person in our school has a job to do and if they are asked to do more than they can because of inadequate staffing then it’s the kids who are getting the short end of the stick because there is only so much each staff member can do to help before things start to slip through the cracks and only get done half-heartedly.  Clearly the only way to address housing, which I believe is the main reason for inadequate staffing, is for the school to build or purchase affordable housing dedicated to staff.
Cullinan: I don’t think there is currently a major issue that needs improving. One area that our school was lacking was a large computer lab where our students can do testing as well as other core work. We just recently passed to implement this feature over the summer. This will be a great addition for students and teachers.
What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending by the school district?
Bergum: The area that has the most need for spending is staffing.  Without much knowledge of the budget as is I couldn’t say which areas have the need for the least amount of spending.
Cullinan: In the short time I have been on the board it is apparent that teacher housing is a big need for our school. We often are unable to hire teachers due to the lack of housing or cost of housing in our community.
If any programs need to be cut in the future due to a budget shortfall, what would you cut first, second and third?
Bergum: I don’t believe there is anything “extra” as far as programs in our school go. Instead of cutting programs,I would look to trim fat from the budget by doing things like going to a four-day school week. This would save money on energy lighting the school, and cooking meals for that extra day. It would also save on fuel and time spent on busing students.
Cullinan: Thankfully our budget is able to easily provide these opportunities for our students. I don’t think cutting any added programs would be a benefit for our school. Each program offers students an opportunity to learn and grow. I think our school has done a great job incorporating new programs for our students. There are so many more opportunities that we didn’t have when I was in school.
Do you feel staffing levels among certified and non-certified staff are adequate? Too high? Too low?
Bergum: All around, I think the school is short staffed.
Cullinan: I think we have a good variety.
Do you have any relatives employed by the school district? If so, how many and who?
Bergum: Not to my knowledge, but I married into a big family in Culbertson so I’m sorry if either forgot or don’t know.
Cullinan: Do you have any relatives employed by the school district?  If so, how many and who?
I do not have any relatives that teach in our school.\
How many children or grandchildren do you have currently attending local schools? How many attended in the past?
Bergum: I have three children in Culbertson School, first, second and fourth grade.
Cullinan: I currently do not have any students in our school system as I only have a 1 year old. The Culbertson School system was one reason I decided to move home. I knew I wanted to raise my children here and have them attend Culbertson School. I think we are lucky to have such a great school system here.
Are you a retired or past employee of the school district? How has that prepared you to serve on the school board?
Bergum: No, but I did substitute teach for a few years and feel like I am closely involved with my kids and their classes. I have seen the daily struggles and small things that frustrate, like leaky roofs in offices and hallways.
Cullinan; N/A