Blue Ridge, Texas: Seaway Pipeline Spill Was The Second One In A Year

A pipeline in Texas burst on January 30, just days before the Trump administration approved the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. The Seaway pipeline near the tiny North Texas town of Blue Ridge spewed about 600,000 gallons of crude into the air after a subcontractor ruptured it.

Local news KXII News 12 in Sherman reports that the Blue Ridge spill was caused by a subcontractor who hit the pipeline with a tractor during a road widening construction project. Video of the spill shows a geyser spouting oil from the pipe several feet into the air and landing on U.S. Highway 121, causing local law enforcement to shut down the road.

This section of the Seaway pipeline normally carries 400,000 barrels of oil per day, and on that day, it spilled more than 14,500 barrels worth approximately $730,000. Of course, local officials have claimed minimal environmental impact in the spill and zero impact to the local drinking water.

According to KETR East Texas, a division of NPR, the Seaway pipeline is jointly owned by Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge. Enterprise is based in Houston, Texas. Enbridge is based in Canada. The construction company in charge of the road widening project, Austin Bridge & Road, issued a statement saying that the leak had been contained and procedures were in place to "recapture the oil" and remove contaminated earth from the area.

The Seaway Pipeline near Blue Ridge, Texas burst after a subcontractor hit it with a tractor.
Yellowstone Oil Spill, 2011 [Image by Jim Urquhart/AP Images]

More than 21,000 miles of pipelines are operated by Enterprise Products Partners, and in the last 10 years, U.S. Dept. of Transportation recorded 210 incidents totaling $50 million. In 2016 alone, Enterprise reported 27 pipeline incidents with a total loss of $2 million.

At the time the Blue Ridge Seaway pipeline spill originally happened, it made news around the country. What was not widely reported at the time was the fact that the Seaway pipeline had experienced a leak at a hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, just three months earlier in late October. KOCO News 5 in Oklahoma states that the spill in Cushing released less than 50,000 gallons of oil and was quickly contained.

Fox 4 News reports that although a man identified as an employee of Enterprise barred people from crossing the highway to the Blue Ridge spill, Plano-based environmental activist Jesse Puente was able to cross over and examine the pipeline spill, where he found pools of oil mixed with water.

"I was able to stick my hand inside that water. And my hands had so much oil on them, I had to take pictures of that."
Although experts agree that an oil pipeline is safer than train transport, environmentalists remain concerned about the countless pipeline leaks in light of climate change. The Trump administration approved the Dakota Access pipeline just days after the Blue Ridge accident, angering the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists known as water protectors.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration states that since 1997, more than 11,000 pipeline oil spills have occurred with 324 human deaths, more than 1,300 injuries for a cost of more than $7 billion dollars.

The Seaway Pipeline near Blue Ridge, Texas burst after a subcontractor hit it with a tractor.
North Dakota Oil Spill [Image by Scott Stockdill/AP Images]

But the oil itself isn't the only hazard of pipeline oil spills. It's also the toxic chemicals mixed into the oil that causes concern. According to a study by Auburn University, if an oil pipeline bursts, it can create a serious health hazard for those who live near it.

"When tar sand is exposed to air, the harmful chemicals that are added as diluents evaporate into the air forming heavy toxic clouds close to ground level."
Crude oil, which is the type of oil spilled near Blue Ridge, contains more than 1,000 chemicals hazardous to humans, such as the carcinogen benzene. It is this reason that the Standing Rock Sioux have fought against the DAPL since last spring. While the Blue Ridge pipeline trails along a major highway in Texas, the DAPL is set to go under Lake Oahe, which provides water to Standing Rock and to millions of people down river. If the DAPL bursts beneath Lake Oahe, the oil and the chemicals in it could leach into the water, rendering it undrinkable.

Two months ago, another oil pipeline 150 miles from Standing Rock burst, spilling oil and chemicals into the water, according to a piece in the Inquisitr. Although the Blue Ridge Seaway pipeline accident is far from Standing Rock, it is just one in a series of thousands of pipeline incidents in the last 20 years.

[Featured Image by MSR Photo/iStock]