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5,000 barrel Keystone 1 spill & concerns about groundwater contamination deepen opposition to Keystone XL pipeline

The spill from the Keystone pipeline in northern South Dakota. Photo by TransCanada.

The TransCanada Keystone 1 pipeline has spilled 5,000 barrels (795,000 litres or 210,000 gallons) of oil in South Dakota.

CBC reports, “A Native American tribe in South Dakota is on edge following a large oil leak from TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline. …[The spill happened] near Amherst, S.D., about 64 kilometres west from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation. …Tribal chairman David Flute said his community is concerned the leak, the largest by the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota to date, could pollute the area’s aquifer and waterways. ‘We are keeping a watchful eye and an open ear’, said Flute. ‘The concern is at a high level, but there is really nothing we can do.'”

The article adds, “Flute said he expects the spill will have environmental impact. ‘We are in a heavy migratory route here with a lot of waterfowl and upland game’, he said. ‘There is going to be a concern with any type of fossil fuels that are being transported … any type of disturbance to the earth and, especially, the water.'”

CNN reports that Brian Walsh, a spokesperson for South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, says, “It is a below-ground pipeline but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass. It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”

The World Herald Bureau notes, “No streams or rivers have been contaminated, but it’s possible that shallow groundwater in the area could be affected, [Walsh] added.”

Additionally, National Geographic reports that the Department was informed at 10:30 am local time, more than four hours after the leak was detected at about 6:00 am local time. Another news report highlights that the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe was notified even later, at about noon local time.

This spill comes just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission will vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Reuters reports, “The [Commission] is scheduled on Monday [Nov. 20] to announce a decision on whether the proposed pipeline route through the state is in the best interests of Nebraskans. It is not allowed to consider the potential of spills as the project already has an environmental permit. A rejection of the route would dim the chances the project gets built…”

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump strongly support that 830,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline.

Dallas Goldtooth with the Indigenous Environmental Network says, “It poses a risk to the Indigenous rights of [the fifteen] tribal nations all along the route and it’s a complete disregard for free prior and informed consent as guaranteed on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It puts at risk the drinking water of over 65,000 Indigenous peoples along the route and puts at risk the livelihood for so many people that depend on tourism, on the land itself for farming and livestock. It’s a risk we can’t take.”

To tell the Nebraska Public Service Commission that you oppose Keystone XL, please retweet this message.