After a victory was won following months of protesting against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock, it has been discovered that a huge leak was detected, contaminating the water that protesters were protecting.
According to the pipeline’s operator, the electronic monitoring equipment failed to detect a pipeline rupture, which released a huge 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek, which is only 150 miles away from where the Standing Rock protests were taking place.
During recent months, thousands of people have been protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would cross the Missouri river, as it would destroy sacred sites, but primarily there were fears that a leak would contaminate the drinking water supply of thousands of people. It now seems that those fears were not irrational.
Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for Casper, Wyoming-based True Cos, which operates the Belle Fourth pipeline, said that it is not clear why the monitoring equipment that is in place did not detect the leak, which a landowner eventually discovered.
According to Bill Suess, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota health department, the landowner discovered the spill on the 5th December near Belfield, following which the pipeline was shut down immediately.
The spill apparently travelled about six miles along Ash Coulee creek, where it fouled a number of private and US Forest Service land. Although the creek feeds into the Little Missouri river, Seuss claimed that it didn’t travel that far, and no drinking water sources were contaminated.
Although no one knows the cause of the leak, there are a number of theories that are currently being investigated.
This isn’t the first time that True Cos have had oil spillages, with a record of oil field related spills in the area. In January 2015, one of their pipelines broke, sending 32,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River’s water supplies, causing a shutdown of the system, and an oil detection in the city’s water system.
Whilst a team of about 60 workers are currently doing their best efforts to clean up the oil, averaging at about 100 yards a day, some of the spilled oil has been found trapped beneath the frozen creek. Suess said of the situation: “It’s going to take some time. Obviously there will be some component of the clean up that will go toward spring.”
In the last decade, the companies operated by True Cos have reported 36 spills totalling 320,000 gallons of oil products, the majority of which was never recovered.