Exactly what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe feared all along has happened: the Dakota Access Pipeline has reportedly leaked, local newspaper Watertown Public Opinion reports. According to officials, a “leaky surge pump” spilled 84 gallons of oil just north of Crandon, South Dakota in Spink County.
It’s as if the countless protests to preserve sacred land and an entire community’s water supply meant nothing. The leak reportedly occurred on Apr. 4, 200 miles south of where the heavily-reported Standing Rock protests took place, according to NBC News. It wasn’t until Tuesday (May 11) that the incident was reported due to its small size. The spill was reportedly a result of a mechanical failure, according to Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the Ground Water Quality Program of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. All of the oil reportedly leaked in a contained area, which was covered with special lining that does not allow anything to touch the soil, Vicki Granado, a spokesperson for pipeline developers Energy Transfer Partners, said.
The Sioux Tribe released a formal statement on their website on May 10, addressing the recent incident. “This is what we have said all along: oil pipelines leak and spill. Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” the statement reads. It also called for the courts to “step in and halt additional accidents before they happen.”
Shortly after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, the president signed an executive order renegotiating the construction of the pipeline. After the bill was signed, authorities forcibly evacuated the remaining protesters. Despite initial claims from Energy Transfer Partner, whom insisted it would be safe and leak-free, Rebecca Craven, program director at the Pipeline Safety Trust told NBC that “these kinds of spills do occur.” “Sometimes they’re contained on company property, and sometimes they do more damage as they escape off company property,” she explained.
The contaminated gravel and lining have reportedly been disposed of, and the pipeline company has launched a full investigation into the incident, NBC reports. The pipeline is not currently in use, which will allow the company to re-evaluate its construction. Nevertheless, if 84 gallons of oil can leak while it’s inactive, many fear the situation will only intensify.