Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Friend and friend Marshall Massey urged Friends (i.e. me) not engage in hyperbole, which I agree with, and was probably guilty of when I wrote my last post about the possible consequences of a leak in the Dakota Access Pipeline. I was envisioning the very worst case possible, which is unlikely to happen. I was thinking if the pipeline were to be built under the Missouri River, as currently planned, it would be possible for hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil to pool under the river in a giant lake before that erupted into the river itself.
It is frustrating that so few people pay attention to these issues. I was trying to use that story of a possible of disaster as perhaps a different way to get more people’s attention. But Marshall is right, I shouldn’t exaggerate.
His Facebook comments related to this were so excellent, I asked if I could reproduce them for a wider audience. Thanks for the caution, and the information, Marshall.
From Marshall Massey:
I think I can guarantee that Omaha and Lincoln don’t actually draw their water from the Missouri. They do have to worry about a Keystone XL spill contaminating the groundwater in the areas where they do get their drinking water, but that is another and much more unpleasant story. (We have got to prevent Trump from letting Keystone XL be completed!)
Although there was a pipeline oil spill into the Yellowstone River upstream from Billings, where I now live, a few years back, and the Yellowstone flows into the Missouri, the entire Missouri River watershed and the farmland for miles on each bank did not become a dead zone. You would be welcome to check the watershed and see for yourself. Denver, Colorado, incidentally, is within the Missouri River watershed. Even Billings did not have a water crisis, since it does not actually depend on Yellowstone for its water supply; it gets its water from wells up above. Still, Billings residents were very unhappy about the spill!
There was another pipeline oil spill into the Yellowstone just last year, downstream from us but just upstream from Glendive, Montana. Glendive had to switch to bottled water for about a week, while the oil actually rising into the river was contained and suctioned up, but that was it. The entire Missouri River watershed did not die.
There is still oil in the sediment at the bottom of the Yellowstone River just downstream from each of these two spills, which is a bad thing and will be very hard and expensive to clean up any further. Fortunately, it is heavy, tarry oil and does not rise into the river water very rapidly. The Yellowstone is still clean to yours truly’s eyes — although Montanans sure have dumped a lot of garbage along its banks, alas. The fish in the Yellowstone River are still healthy.
The Standing Rock Sioux are vulnerable because (a) they actually *do* draw their drinking water from the river, like Glendive but unlike Billings or Omaha or Kansas City, (b) that pipeline will cross the river far, far too close to their water intake, and (c) if it happens to them, they will get the same loving care from the feds and state government that Indians always get, which is a level of care I don’t know how to characterize without obscenities.
*Any* oil spill pollution of the Missouri River ecosystem is unacceptable, of course; most U.S. river ecosystems are already badly damaged, and what we have left needs to be preserved with TLC. And anything furthering the U.S. addiction to fossil fuels is unacceptable as well. But I don’t see any need to exaggerate to make our case.