Northwest Natural to Clean Up Bentonite Leak: Contamination Hits Mary’s River

marysAny time you hear about something spilling or leaking into a body of water rich in marine life – not to mention swimmers – it’s not a good thing. Currently polluting the waters of Mary’s river is a substance known as bentonite, having originated from a drilling accident while NW Natural was operating in the surrounding area. Experts commented that while the contamination does threaten marine life, the company would use a fine screening process to remove the substance as quickly as possible.

According to a list of industrial applications from, bentonite is a type of plastic clay used for many practical industrial applications. In this case, NW Natural utilized the compound as a cooling agent to help prevent blowouts of drilling equipment.

One document from an AT&T drilling operation prepared by Forkert Engineering in 2007 also listed the common environmental impacts of a bentonite leak in section IV of the report. Unfortunately, underwater cleanups do become more complicated than on-land leaks due to an increased level of flow. The company’s report further explains that while respiratory complications to aquatic life were usually short lived, recurring contamination could result in a disruption of eggs and nests. They assure the public that everything possible is being done to preserve wildlife and complete the cleanup quickly.

Because companies commonly use bentonite for drilling equipment, they readily prepare themselves to tackle any risks or incidents. So long as NW Natural and the parties involved stick to their goal of a “sufficient” clean-up process, the Marys River should be returned to normal shortly.

By Sean Bassinger