TULARE, S.D. (CN) – A rural pump station leak along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline has bolstered environmentalists’ and tribes’ claims that the project should be shut down.
“This leak hits close to home, my home,” Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said in a statement released by the Indigenous Environment Network Wednesday. “South Dakota already faces water shortages and our livelihoods depend on water, from ranching and farming to healthcare. Do we have more spills just waiting to happen? This is our home, our land and our water. This just proves [Dakota Access’] hastiness is fueled by greed not in the best interest for tribes or the Dakotas.”
A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, Dakota Access’ parent company, confirmed in an email that the leak occurred during testing of the not-yet-operational station on April 4. It discharged 84 gallons onto property owned by Dakota Access near the small town of Tulare (pop. 218) in eastern South Dakota.
“All crude was recovered and remediation of this issue was completed shortly after it occurred,” the spokesperson added.
On April 6, South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources entered the spill into its searchable database, where the accessible information is limited to the responsible party, location, reviewer’s initials and status of the spill.
Brian Walsh, the environmental scientist reviewing the spill with South Dakota’s DENR, told the Associated Press and other news sources that the organization did not make a public announcement about the spill because it did not threaten any waterways or pose a danger to public health. In addition, Dakota Access quickly reported and cleaned up the spill.
The Dakota Access Pipeline has been under intense scrutiny over the past year, owing mostly to massive protests in North Dakota led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who claim the pipeline threatens their water sources. Despite this level of attention, Walsh said the DENR tries “to treat all of our spills in a consistent manner,” according to the Star Tribune. “We treated this as we would treat any other 84-gallon oil spill.”
The department could not be reached by phone for further comment after hours on Wednesday.
“This spill serves as a reminder that it is not a matter of if a pipeline spills, it’s a matter of when a pipeline spills,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environment Network said in a statement. “The fact that this occurred before Dakota Access even becomes operational is all the more concerning. We fear more spills will come to bear, which is an all-too-frequent situation with Energy Transfer Partners’ pipeline projects. As such, eyes of the world are watching and will keep Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners accountable.”
The 1,172-mile pipeline runs between the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa on the way. Although the Obama administration called for further environmental review on the project, President Trump promptly reversed the order after taking office.
The pipeline is set to become operational June 1.
A spokesperson for the Indigenous Environment Network did not return a phone call by deadline.