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Worst Fears of Standing Rock Water Protectors Just Became Reality

176,000 gallons of oil spilling into a nearby creek

A flawed pipeline has leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek and the surrounding countryside 2.5 hours away from the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota.

Based on CNN, an estimated 4,200 barrels of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County, 150 miles (241 kilometers) from Cannon Ball in North Dakota, where protesters have been fighting the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

For months, adversaries of the Dakota Access Pipeline have already been expressing concerns that local drinking water would be affected by it, as it had been to be constructed beneath the Missouri River close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation – the main water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The US Department of the Army declared that it wouldn’t approve the crossing of the pipeline beneath the Missouri River last week.

The huge nearby spill – which was found the exact same day the Dakota Accessibility Pipeline construction permit was refused – might have only shown the protesters’ point.

The North Dakota Department of Health affirmed yesterday, and the spill had taken place on December 5.

North Dakota Department of Health

“Due to potentially unstable soil conditions at the point of release, the cause of the incident is not yet known,” the Department of Health had announced.

“The section of pipeline where the leak occurred has been isolated, and the spill has been contained.”

According to Bill Suess, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Department of Health, 37,000 gallons of oil had been recovered as of Monday, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“It’s going to take some time,” Suess told the Associated Press. “Obviously there will be some component of the cleanup that will go toward spring.”

According to the actual reports, local drinking water is not to be affected so far, however at least two cows have been confirmed dead in the area. It is still to be confirmed the definitive connection between their deaths and the oil spill.

Further on, it is still to be confirmed what’s the reason of the pipeline rupture in the first place. Increased snowfall may be the potential reason to answer this question.

What’s more disturbing, is the fact that electronic monitoring equipment has for sure failed to detect the leak – something that would have prevented the pipe from spilling so much oil into the countryside.

While there’s no guarantee that a leak like this would happen at the Dakota Access Pipeline, this kind of thing is not exactly rare in the area.

As Hawkins reports for The Washington Post, True Companies, which owns Belle Fourche Pipeline Co, has a history of oil leaks in the region, reporting more than 30 spills totalling 320,000 gallons of oil since 2006.

“The Poplar Pipeline, operated by a True Companies subsidiary, leaked about 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana in 2015, prompting a town to shut down its drinking water service to 6,000 residents,” he adds.

So while none of that means the Dakota Access Pipeline is necessarily a risk, the Billings County leak is making the protesters’ point for them: it’s clear we need to do a better job at ensuring the structural integrity of those pipes.

source: Science Alert

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