Two separate oil spills in North Dakota released more than 100 gallons of oil from the Dakota Access Pipeline and a feeder line in March, even before the controversial pipeline was fully operating, reports show.
The Associated Press reported that about 84 gallons of oil spilled from a leaky flange connecting a feeder pipe to the Dakota Access Pipeline on March 3. The spill occurred in Watford, North Dakota, contaminating snow and soil but not affecting any nearby waterways. The North Dakota Department of Health said that no people or wildlife were harmed by the spill.
Two days after that leak, another oil leak released about 20 gallons of oil in rural Mercer County, the AP reported, citing data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. As with the previous leak, the March 5 leak contaminated snow and soil but did not affect nearby waterways. No harm to wildlife or humans was reported and the contaminated matter was removed.
The PHMSA report says the leak occurred when an above-ground valve failed because of a manufacturing defect. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is developing the Dakota Access Pipeline, inspected other valves of the same type and found them to be in proper order.
The March leaks preceded another Dakota Pipeline spill that released about 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota on April 4. That spill occurred at a rural pump station, the AP reports, but the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources did not notify the public of it beyond including a report in its online database.
No leaks were reported along the pipeline in Iowa or Illinois.
ETP is building the 1,200-mile pipeline to transport oil from North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois, despite widespread protests that it brushed off the concerns of Native Americans who say the pipeline tarnishes sacred land and threatens water supplies.
Several tribes, including the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Yankton, and Oglala Sioux continue to fight the pipeline in federal court and have even taken their case to the United Nations in efforts to get the pipeline shut down.
Critics of the pipeline say that even though the Dakota Access Pipeline leaks have been relatively minor, they are indicative of larger environmental disasters the pipeline will bring in the future.
“We have always said it is not a matter of it, but when,” tribal attorney Jan Hasselman told the AP after the South Dakota leak. “Pipelines spill and leak. It’s just a fact.”