Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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Coming down the pipeline


It is possible to drink a dangerous toxin without even knowing it—worse yet, it is possible to unintentionally poison family as well as self? The water the people on the Cheyenne River Reservation use to drink and bathe with, cook and wash dishes with, according to many Cheyenne River residents, tribal leaders and tribal members, is all at risk of contamination in the event of an oil spill from the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL).

TransCanada assures their “commitment to minimizing the environmental impact during the development of the KXL pipeline,” on www.transcanada.com.

TransCanada continues preliminary construction activities after Federal Judge Brian Morris of Montana temporarily blocked the KXL project. His Nov. 8 ruling ordered a new environmental review along the pipeline route, temporarily halting the project.  The Trump administration had not fully considered possible impacts, according to a Nov. 28 article from the Associated Press.

However, Morris altered his decision stating he would “clarify the injunction next week.” Meanwhile, TransCanda is again allowed to continue with their scheduled construction.

At-risk residents have different perspectives about KXL.

“This pipeline means more business for me. I am constructing a new building to service pipeline trucks and equipment,” said Mike Rousseau, a lifelong resident of Ridgeview on the east end of the reservation.

Located right along Highway 212, his station, Ted’s Service, is in its fourth generation of being an Indian-owned, family enterprise. His perspectives are shared by others in the area.

“I am a tribal member with a licensed business on this rez, but I cannot get any real work from the tribe — that money goes somewhere else; I have to survive, and if the pipeline helps me and my family, I am all for it,” Rousseau concluded.

Others see the pipeline as a health hazard –a potentially deadly threat flowing in the thick, tar-like oil called bitumen, coming down the pipeline at a rate of 830,000 barrels per day.

The city of Glendive, Montana went at least two days without a public health alert after an underground pipeline leaked into their public water supply, putting 6,000 residents at direct risk, according to a 2015 report in the Great Falls Tribune.

Officials knew of the leak but did not notify the community. The leaking pipeline was 14 feet below the public water supply, seemingly far enough from it to be a contamination threat; however, residents began calling city officials to report the smell of gas in their faucet water. In response to the contamination, bottled water was supplied by Bridger Pipeline LLC to address the need for clean drinking water.

KXL will be constructed using “a state-of-the-art technique called horizontal directional drilling to bury the pipeline well below river beds, allowing [TransCanada] to bury the pipe deeper on both sides of the river bank,” TransCanada’s website states.

Expert testimonies provided to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) challenge the company’s claims.

“Hospitals up and down the Missouri need to be prepared for an oil spill, for treating patients and clean up crews,” Cindy Myers said in an interview on November 14, 2018.

Myers is a registered nurse. The Keystone pipeline system leaked into her private well in Nebraska in 2009. “My horizon expanded from not just wanting to protect my water, but water for everybody,” Myers said.

She became an intervenor for the South Dakota PUC hearing September 2014 regarding the KXL pipeline.

Many of Myers’s statements were stricken from the public record by the PUC at the request of an attorney for TransCanada, labeling her testimony “hearsay” in regards to the health risks of the carcinogen benzene. Benzene is a chemical used in tar sands oil extraction and flows with the oil through the 2,147 mile journey from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical according to the International Agency on Cancer Research (IACR), the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Benzene is a Group One Carcinogen according to IACR, known to cause leukemia in children, and adults are susceptible too. This threat has no smell and no taste, and it does not take much to cause significant harm.

Benzene contamination can occur directly through drinking water, eating foods prepared with the water, or breathing it in while showering, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Occupational Safety and Health Association.

Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical according to the International Agency on Cancer Research (IACR), the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Benzene is a Group One Carcinogen according to IACR, known to cause leukemia in children, and adults are susceptible too. This threat has no smell and no taste, and it does not take much to cause significant harm.

Benzene contamination can occur directly through drinking water, eating foods prepared with the water, or breathing it in while showering, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Occupational Safety and Health Association.

Benzene does a couple of different things when it hits water. First, it dissolves. If oil leaks into a fast running river, benzene could travel about 120 miles in the course of one day, according to Arden Davis Ph.D., P.E. in his 2015 testimony before the SD PUC regarding KXL.

Davis is a registered professional engineer in South Dakota, and has taught courses since 1985 in ground water contamination, geological engineering, and environmental pollution at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

In the event of release, heavier tar sands oil can settle at the bottom of waterways, allowing benzene to continue seeping into water that flows steadily towards the Missouri River.

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