Just over two and a half hours from the Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota, a faulty pipeline has allowed almost 200,000 gallons of oil to dump into a creek.
The catastrophic spill, which covers over 5 miles, went completely unnoticed until a local happened to find it. The duration of the spill and what caused are is still unclear – what is clear is that none of this would have happened if the pipeline was rerouted, as the protestors had demanded.
CNN reported that the Belle Fourche Pipeline, a company based out of Billings County (located just 150 miles from protestors of the pipeline in North Dakota) leaked over 4,000 barrels of crude oil.
In recent months, protesters of the pipeline in North Dakota have been asserting that the pipeline would have a negative impact on local drinking water, due to its proposed location beneath the Missouri River. This river serves as the main source of water for the Sioux tribe that resides near the proposed pipeline location. Which is why they didn’t want the pipeline to contaminate that water source.
As of last week, it was announced by the US Army Department that the pipeline would not be approved to run under the river.
The huge spill was found at the same time that the construction permit was denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline and only further proved the points of the protesters.
North Dakota’s Department of Health confirmed the date of the spill as December 5 and stated that the cause of the spill was still being investigated and was difficult to pinpoint due to soil conditions that were unstable. They added that the source of the leak had been discovered and the leaking oil has been brought under control.
Bill Suess, an environmental scientist, reported that 37,000 gallons of oil have been recovered so far. Suess explained to the Associated Press that cleaning up the spill will take a good deal of time and may very well continue into the spring.
Although local drinking water should not experience any negative effects, two cows have shown up dead. A conclusive connection between the death of the cows and the leaked oil has yet to be confirmed.
Although the source of the pipeline leak has yet to be determined, a spokesperson for Belle Fourche Pipeline, Wendy Owen, reported to the Associated Press that their main theory is that the leak may have started when higher amounts of snowfall caused the hillside to slump. She stated that “the investigation is ongoing”.
As if the spill itself and the lack of understanding surrounding its cause were not bad enough, the electronic monitoring equipment completely failed to detect the leak. Had the leak been detected, the spill would have been far less significant.
While this spill does not guarantee the same thing will occur at the Dakota Access Pipeline, it certainly confirms the possibility.
True Companies – the owner of Belle Fourche Pipeline Company – is no stranger to oil leaks in this area. Since 2006, it has been responsible for over 30 spills that resulted in over 300,000 gallons of leaked oil.
Another pipeline owned by a True Companies subsidiary spilled around 30,000 gallons of crude oil in 2015. These thousands of gallons of oil poured into the Yellowstone River. This spill prompted an entire town, with over 6,000 people, to shut off its drinking water.
Since 2011, at least 10 oil spills have been reported by the Belle Fourche Pipeline Company.
Although these numerous spills do not guarantee the Dakota Access Pipeline will pose a problem, the leaks do help the protesters drive their point home. It is extremely clear that we must demand higher structural integrity of the pipes used and utilize more reliable monitoring systems.