A pipeline leak has spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek just about two and a half hours from Cannon Ball, where protesters are camped out against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, as well as environmentalists from around the country, have battled the pipeline project on the grounds that it crosses beneath a lake that supplies drinking water to native Americans. They point out the route beneath Lake Oahe puts the water source in jeopardy and would wipe out sacred land.
North Dakota officials calculate more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek. State environmental scientist Bill Suess states a landowner found the spill on Dec. 5 close to the city of Belfield, which is close to 150 miles from the epicenter of the Dakota Access pipeline protest encampments.
The leak was secured within hours of the its knowledge, Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for Casper, Wyoming-based True Cos., which runs the Belle Fourche pipeline, explained to CNBC.
It’s not yet apparent why electronic monitoring equipment failed to recognize the leak, Owen shared with the Asssociated Press.
Owen stated the pipeline was shut down instantly after the leak was found. The pipeline is buried on a hill near Ash Coulee creek, and the “hillside sloughed,” which might have ruptured the line, she stated.
“That is our number one theory, but nothing is definitive,” Owen stated. “We have several working theories and the investigation is ongoing.”
Oil pipeline spill near Belfield, ND, estimated at 176,000 gallons https://t.co/fBgBJeqLXm
— Amy Dalrymple (@AmyDalrympleFCC) December 12, 2016
A week ago, the Army Corp of Engineers stated it would reject Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners the easement it requires to complete the final stretch of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline. United States Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy stated the best route forward was to examine alternative routes for the pipeline, something Energy Transfer Partners affirms it will not do.
Energy Transfer Partners states the Dakota Access pipeline would contain safeguards such as leak detection equipment and that workers keeping track of the pipeline remotely in Texas could close valves within three minutes if a breach is discovered.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump has voiced support for the Dakota Access Pipeline. About 5,000 individuals are still occupying land near the planned construction site.
The 6-inch steel Belle Fourche pipeline is mainly underground but was constructed above ground where it crosses Ash Coulee Creek, Suess stated. Owen mentioned the pipeline was constructed in the 1980s and is employed to gather oil from nearby oil wells to a collection point.
Suess mentioned the spill migrated almost 6 miles from the spill site along Ash Coulee Creek, and it fouled an not known amount of private and U.S. Forest Service land along the waterway. The creek feeds into the Little Missouri River, but Seuss stated it seems no oil got that far and that no drinking water sources were threatened. The creek was free-flowing when the spill happened but has since frozen over.
About 60 workers were on site Monday, and crews are already averaging about 100 yards daily in their cleanup attempts, he stated. Some of the oil is still trapped beneath the frozen creek.
Suess states about 37,000 gallons of oil were recovered.
“It’s going to take some time,” Suess explained of the cleanup. “Obviously there will be some component of the cleanup that will go toward spring.”
True Cos. has a record of oil field-related spills in North Dakota and Montana, which includes a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill briefly shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was discovered in the city’s water treatment system.
True Cos. runs at least three pipeline companies with a combined 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, based on information the companies submitted to federal regulators. Since 2006, the companies have documented 36 spills totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products, most of which was never saved.
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