With the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline expected to start operations this week, the latest reports on the state’s oil spill record do not bode well. According to the North Dakota Department of Health, they’ve experienced more than 700 oil spills in the past 12 months alone.
Not only that, but reports of a major spill last December were found to be grossly underestimated – three times more oil leaked into the environment than we thought, making it one of the largest oil spills in North Dakota history.
According to Chris Clarke at KCET, if you averaged out all the oil spills in the state of North Dakota in the year ending on 1 May 2017, you’d have one spill every 11 hours and 45 minutes.
And we’re not talking small leaks here. One event on the 18 May 2016 saw 400 barrels of oil (16,800 gallons) leak out in Bowman County, spreading more than 100 metres outside the refinery gates and into the surrounding environment.
That same event saw an additional 2,500 barrels (1 million gallons) of brine leak outside the facility.
But here’s the thing – if those figures sound alarming, they’re nothing compared to the more recent oil spill that occurred in Billings County, just 2.5 hours away from where the Standing Rock protest took place.
Back in December, it was reported that the Billings Country spill leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil (4,200 barrels) into Ash Coulee Creek and the surrounding countryside, due to a fault in the Belle Fourche Pipeline.
Especially concerning for locals was the fact that the company that owns the leaky pipeline, Belle Fourche Pipeline Co., didn’t even realise it was happening until a member of the public stumbled on the leak and notified them about it.
And that was five days after the leak had originally sprung.
By that stage, the oil had spread almost 7 km (5.4 miles) from the original leakage point.
Now, new reports on the event have shown that we didn’t even know the half of it – turns out, the spill actually totalled 529,830 gallons of oil (12,615 barrels).