An oil pipeline break released more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a Western North Dakota creek, about 150 miles from where the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies continue to face off against developers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
True Companies of Casper, Wyo., said that electronic monitoring equipment it uses to detect leaks failed to find the break in its Belle Fourche pipeline. Instead, the leak was discovered by a landowner on Dec. 5, but only after most of the oil flowed into the Ash Coulee Creek near Belfield, N.D.
A spokesperson for the company told the Huffington Post that it doesn’t know why its leak-detection equipment failed. The pipeline typically transports a thousand barrels of oil per day, which means the spill likely ran undetected for days.
A blizzard and below-freezing temperatures that struck the region after discovery of the spill has slowed efforts to clean up the oil before it can reach a Lakota tribe’s water supply. About 37,000 gallons of spill oil had been recovered as of Monday, Dec. 12, the North Dakota Health Department said.
According to the North Dakota Health Department, the pipeline owner hired Alberta, Canada-based SWAT Consulting Inc., which specializes in cold-weather oil spill cleanups.
The spill comes as Lakota Sioux and their supporters continue to stand off against developers constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which had been allowed to cut through sacred burial lands and water supplies.
Although the Obama Administration recently announced that it would not grant an easement to Energy Transfer Partners to complete the final section of the Dakota Access pipeline, the developer “has expressed confidence that the project will be completed after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.,” Huffington Post reports.
A spokesperson for True Companies told the Associated Press that the Belle Fourche pipeline is buried in a hill near Ash Coulee creek and that the “hillside sloughed,” which may have broken the line.
“That is our No.1 theory but nothing is definitive,” the company spokesperson told the AP. “We have several working theories and the investigation is ongoing.”
According to the AP, “True Cos. has a history of oil field-related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Mont., after oil was detected in the city’s water treatment system.”
The AP reports that True Cos. “has declared 36 other spills since 2006, totaling more than 320,000 gallons” of oil and other petroleum products.