What Do Flint And The Dakota Access Pipeline Have In Common? Water [Opinion]

Reno Berkeley

With all the attention lately on the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, some folks have wondered why more attention isn't being spent on the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. While mainstream media has devoted a multitude of stories on the Flint water crisis, the same news outlets have paid little attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Although Flint is just one city with dangerously polluted water, it is a microcosm of what could come, should the government and major corporations have their way. The pipeline, on the other hand, has the potential to contaminate water, not just for the people of Standing Rock, it has the potential to pollute the water supply for millions of people downstream.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore hails from Flint, Michigan, and has a deep connection with the city. It is obvious that he cares tremendously about the city and its inhabitants. On his website, he gave a ten-point rundown of why the water crisis happened, to begin with, but it all seems to boil down to two things: greed and a gaping disregard for human life, particularly Black lives (Flint is a majority Black city).

Several points in his essay were striking in how government officials, at both the state and federal level, seemed to disregard the lives of people who live in Flint.

In 2006, Cornell University issued a brief discussing the theory of peak oil, which was first suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956. The authors noted that Hubbert had been correct in predicting that the United States would hit peak oil in 1971, which means oil production has declined since then. Since 2000, every other country except for those in the Middle East and Russia have reduced their oil output. This explains why fracking for natural gas and tar sands oil have become so popular: it's becoming harder to find good sources of fossil fuels.

Dakota Access And Water

And this is where the Flint water crisis ties in with the the oil pipeline wars. The fossil fuel corporations are making one last big grab to suck as much oil and natural gas out of the ground. In building these pipelines as quickly as possible, the oil companies are bound to cut corners and leaks will happen. Leaks inevitably mean contaminated soil and water, as most pipelines don't just transport fossil fuels. They also transport dangerous carcinogenic chemicals to thin the thick sludge through narrow pipelines.

While the method of water contamination is different from that of Flint, the results will be the same. Millions of people will be affected.

Just 200 miles from Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, a pipeline was shut down on Monday due to a leak. The oil spill, according to Forum News Service, is significant but the total volume is yet unknown, but authorities acknowledged that the spill contaminated the Little Missouri River.

The pipeline is owned by Belle Fourche Pipeline Co., which is part of True Companies of Wyoming. This is the same umbrella company whose Bridger Pipeline had a significant leak in Montana in 2015, contaminating the Yellowstone River. The leak was so bad, it affected the water supply for the residents of Glendive, MT.

Banks and investors are increasingly looking to water sources and water rights as investment opportunities. Goldman-Sachs is invested in D.C. Water, whose motto is, ironically, "Water is life." Investment news outlets are citing climate change as a big motivator for investors to increase their water holdings.

In a story I published recently, oil and gas pipelines have experienced thousands of oil spills in the last five years alone. And according to independent researcher and former oil industry worker John Bolenbaugh, most oil spills aren't even reported. In a November 18 video, Bolenbaugh discusses the dump trucks full of dead fish and animals affected by oil spills, and how oil industry workers covered up the spills by planting grass over the oil. When company officials discovered he'd taken video of one of these incidents, he was fired.

International Banker even cites the Flint water crisis as a reason more investors are buying stock in water ventures.

"Therefore, it is highly probably that water utilities will play a crucial role over the next 20 years by providing suck services as supply systems for potable water distribution, wastewater systems, and sewage-treatment systems. Companies such as American Water Works … have therefore offered a growing appeal to investors."

To top this off, private companies like Nestle are buying up water rights from states and localities at an alarming rate, pumping fresh water from the ground to sell back to the very people who may need it in the future. In California, Nestle continued to source water despite an expired permit of nearly three decades. In a small town in Canada, Nestle purchased the rights for a well that the town itself had been trying to buy, Business Insider reports. And in Maine, Governor LePage helped Nestle get control of the city of Fryeburg's water supply for 45 years, according to USUncut.

With climate change a reality upon us, and with years-long droughts in California and other places in the American Southwest, water will become a highly sought-after resource. And although oil and water seem unrelated on the surface, they are intimately intertwined, especially in light of polluted water supplies due to pipeline spills and fracking. Flint, Michigan, is an example of how widespread government corruption and corporate interests can monopolize the most essential, basic need for human life. If the Dakota Access Pipeline continues to build, it is virtually guaranteed that it will leak, and it will contaminate the water of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River.

[Featured Image by Carlos Osorio/AP Images]