Tragedy Strikes At Standing Rock: 176,000 Gallons Of Oil Floods Into Nearby Creek

The very thing that protesters have long been fearing at Standing Rock has just happened as 176,000 gallons of oil has tragically flooded into a neighboring creek. A faulty pipeline caused this leak to go completely undetected and straight into the countryside and creek just 2.5 hours away from where the protests are happening in North Dakota.

Pipeline owners of the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County were totally unaware of this massive leak and it wasn’t until a local chanced upon it that it was even noticed. By that time, it had spread an astonishing 5.4 miles away from the original site of the leak. In fact, it is still unclear as to what caused the pipeline to leak in the first place. It is now known, however, that the leak happened on December 5, which means the oil spill has continued unabated for quite some time now.

By now it should be crystal clear to all that those at Standing Rock do indeed have just cause for concern over their fears of the Dakota Access Pipeline, especially in light of these recent events.

Cleaning up an oil spill in Louisiana on May 24, 2010.
A clean up crew shovel oil in Louisiana on May 24, 2010. This is the kind of spill that frightens residents and protesters at Standing Rock. [Image by John Moore/Getty Images]

CNN has reported that this pipeline near Standing Rock was built back in the 1980s and is used to move 1,000 barrels of crude oil each day. The Spill Investigation Program Manager for the North Dakota Department of Health, Bill Suess, has said that whenever oil leaks into water it is considered a very serious matter and is something that is thoroughly investigated.

“Any time it gets into water, we respond differently and we take it more seriously.”

Bill Suess added that right now there are around 100 people actively working to clean up this tremendous spill.

With this recent oil leak that spilled into a nearby creek and countryside grounds, you can well imagine that building another line directly beneath the Missouri River could only be fraught with peril. And when that location just happens to be right next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where it could affect drinking water, it is only going to be a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately for all concerned, the US Department of the Army have decided that they would not approve any crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Science Alert reports. In a strange twist of fate, on the exact day that the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline was stricken down, this recent oil spill in Billings County was also discovered.

But just imagine that the Dakota Access Pipeline had been given the go ahead. And imagine that the sole source of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s drinking water had been contaminated. What would happen then? Oil leaks take an incredibly long time to clean up. Even now that the recent oil leak from the Belle Fourche Pipeline has been contained, it will still take awhile to continue the clean up process, as Bill Suess affirms.

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

You might think that with today’s technology we would be safe from oil spills, but as history has shown, we are not. Even the electronic monitoring equipment that should have alerted the pipeline owners to the mess near Standing Rock failed to do its job. If it had, the leak wouldn’t have continued with such a frenzy for so long. But even with technology, oil spills happen much more frequently than you might think.

Activists at Standing Rock celebrate after easement for Dakota Access Pipeline denied
Activists are jubilant and celebrate after learning the easement was denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. [Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]

True Companies, the owner of the Belle Fourche Pipeline, has a long and illustrious history of oil spills in this region alone. Since 2006, they have had 30 leaks. In fact, one of their pipelines even dumped 30,000 gallons of oil straight into Yellowstone River. Because of this, a town of 6,000 people had their drinking water service totally shut down.

To put this all into perspective, the company that would have operated the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation, Sunoco Logistics, has more oil spills than any of its competitors as Reuters has reported. How many spills, you ask? Since 2010 they have had more than 200 leaks.

While the December 5 oil spill in Billings County is a tragedy of epic proportions, both for the land and the wildlife that have been lost, it is a harsh reminder that we need to be very careful where we build pipelines. Thankfully, the brave souls that protested at Standing Rock have made their point, and Standing Rock appears, for the time being at least, to be safe.

[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]