The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been in the news almost as much as the aftermath of the election. What started as a protest of a planned pipeline path has grown into a massive grass-roots drive to raise awareness of water pollution. And now the exact scenario the protestors had envisioned has occurred. A pipe close to the protest site has dumped thousands of gallons of oil.
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The pipeline dispute originally was championed by Native Americans who claimed that the potential for spillage would threaten their water supplies and could harm sacred sites. They wanted the pipeline rerouted, or halted. After weeks of active protests, the government appeared to cave in, halting progress on the DAPL.
Now a faulty pipeline has spilled 176,000 gallons of crude oil into watershed just two hours away from where the DAPL protests were taking place. The cause of the spill is not yet known.
To make matters worse, the spill wasn’t detected until someone from the community found the oil slick on a local creek. It is estimated that the spill is now more than 5 miles long.
CNN’s original report estimated 4,200 barrels of crude were spilled. The line belongs to the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County, Montana. The spill is draining into the Little Missouri River and is believed to have occurred on December 5th, the same day that the US Department of the Army pulled permits for the DAPL’s crossing of the Missouri river.
The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed the spill. “Due to potentially unstable soil conditions at the point of release, the cause of the incident is not yet known,” they said in a statement. “The section of pipeline where the leak occurred has been isolated, and the spill has been contained.”
While the spill is clearly an environmental calamity, those opposed to the building of the DAPL now have much more concrete evidence of their claims. While this is hardly the first oil spill in the area, many of the DAPL proponents had claimed that advances in the technology meant that pipelines were safe, and that the protestors were worried over nothing.