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    Environmental Impact: Three Years Later N. Dakota Oil Spill Still Not Cleaned Up

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    The state of North Dakota has been plagued with pipeline spills and breakdowns that have resulted in over $40 million in property damage, the most recent occurring in December. But after three years and three months, a massive oil spill in the area has still not been cleaned up.

    North Dakota sees an average of four oil spills every year. Most recently, the so-called Belle Fourche pipeline ruptured, resulting in some 130,000 gallons of crude oil being spilled into the environment. The leaking crude then traveled almost six miles to nearby Ash Coulee Creek, where a timely winter storm froze the creek, preventing the toxic sludge from reaching the Missouri river. Unless the spilled oil is removed from the area, it will seep into the creek, and then flow into the river. But confidence is low, as a 2013 oil spill has still not been cleaned up.

    ​In 2013, a pipeline owned by Tesoro Corp came apart, contaminating a wheat field near Tioga, close to the Canadian border. At the time, an estimated 840,000 gallons of oil fouled 13 acres of soil, about the size of 14 football fields. A decontamination crew working on the environmental catastrophe dug as deep as 50 feet, removing and displacing enormous amounts of soil.

    "They are there working away 24 hours a day, seven days a week — it's pretty amazing," claimed Patty Jensen, a wife of the farmer who discovered the 2013 spill, commenting on the cleanup efforts.

    ​Tesoro implemented a new technology that evaporates the oil from the soil, instead of removing contaminated earth. Yet the company has not set a date for completion. The process has cost some $49 million so far and is expected to end up costing $60 million, according to the company's tax filings to the state.

    Earlier in December the US Army Corps of Engineers halted the construction of the hotly-contested $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline, intended to move 20 million gallons daily. The Dakota Access is enormous when compared to December's ruptured oil line in Belle Fourche, as the latter moves about 6 million gallons daily, according to North Dakota Pipeline Authority 2011 report.

    The Dakota Access pipeline, a much larger pipeline, is reported to be some 30 inches in diameter, compared to 7-inch pipe of both Tesoro and True Cos's Belle Fourche pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company responsible for constructing the pipeline, has a lengthy spill record, with 29 reported pipeline ruptures, leaks, or accidents since 2006, leading to nearly 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) of hazardous liquids dumped into the environment.

    ​Given its capacity, the environmental impact of a Dakota Access pipeline rupture would be orders of magnitude worse than the Tesoro leak, contaminating Missouri River drinking water sources for millions of people, in addition to vast areas of soil, according to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, on whose ground the pipeline was supposed to be built.

    President-elect Donald Trump, a supporter and early investor of the Dakota Access pipeline, has said that he will wait until he is in office to review the Army Corps' decision to halt construction, according to Trump spokesman Jason Miller.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    environment, Oil Spill, Dakota Access Pipeline, Belle Fourche pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, True Cos, US Army Corps of Engineers, Tesoro, North Dakota, United States
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