On October 29, a leak was discovered in part of the Keystone 1 Pipeline close to Edinburg, North Dakota. An oil leak of 9,120 barrels (383,040 gallons) was discovered affecting 2,500 square yards of land according to TC Energy company. Although the state of North Dakota has said that there is no evidence of injured or impacted wildlife, the Indigenous Environmental Network is not happy.
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is a nonprofit established in 1990. It’s mission is to, “protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting indigenous teachings and native laws.” The group has been concerned about a spill from the Keystone Pipeline since it was proposed. As frontline community organizer for IEN Joye Braun told CNN, “It has never been if a pipeline breaks but rather when,” and the IEN has criticized the TC Energy company saying they haven’t done enough to secure the pipe’s infrastructure.
The Keystone Pipeline stretches over 2,600 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas. Keystone 1 is the first phase of the pipeline that goes from Alberta to North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri and opened in 2011. Only 6 years after its opening, the pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota and spawned protests with thousands of people.
This most recent spill is a mixture of clay, water and bitumen, a thick heavy oil that bonds cement together. The oil is dissolved in a group of chemicals called diluent that allow it to flow through the pipeline. With spills like these the diluent evaporates quickly creating short term air pollution and leaves behind the bitumen which then sinks. “Once bitumen sinks to the bottom of a lake or wetland, it is much more problematic to clean up than conventional oil, which floats nicely and can be skimmed off the surface,” professor in aquatic ecotoxicology at Queen’s University Diana Orihel told VICE News. Dakota’s wetlands where the spill took place are an already fragile and shrinking ecosystem for many special bird and plant species, but once this tar seeps into the wetland is will be impossible to restore entirely back to their original state.
By Eliana Sauer