The Dakota Access Pipeline has sprung a leak already and it's not even operational yet. It sprung two small leaks in March, adding to previous ones that had already occurred in April. While the operators of the pipeline stress that all leaks have been contained and cleaned up, those who oppose the pipeline say this simply proves that it is not a matter of if, but when, a larger spill occurs.
The pipeline isn’t due to be operational until the beginning of June, but already there have been multiple reports of leaks along the length of the project. Back in April, it was found that around 320 liters (84 gallons) of crude oil were spilled in South Dakota, the state where massive protests in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe occurred to try and block the completion of the project in the first place.
Now it is being reported that there have been a further two leaks in North Dakota, with one near the pipeline terminal in Watford City spilling 320 liters (84 gallons) and another in Mercer County spilling 75 liters (20 gallons). Both leaks were identified quickly, isolated, and stopped, with the contaminated snow and soil quickly cleaned up.
Neither spills, however, were reported to the public by the operating company, the contractors, or the government and were simply listed on the federal website overseeing environmental safety. The health department lists all spills that occur, but don’t normally announce them unless they are over 150 barrels in size, pose a health risk, or threaten waterways, meaning that all the smaller spills that have already occurred go unmentioned.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a highly controversial project. The 1,900-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline, which is estimated to cost $3.8 billion, runs from the oil fields of North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. It hit the news as support began to swell for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who were protesting the construction of the pipeline through their ancestral lands and over their main water source. After the pipeline was initially blocked, to the tribe’s great dismay, President Trump signed an executive order allowing the project to go back ahead.
One of their main issues with the pipeline was the threat any leaks would pose to their clean water. “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Jan Hasselman, told the Guardian last month. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”