Environment | National

Pipeline continues to leak oil months after rupture in North Dakota

The Belle Fourche Pipeline has spilled about 530,000 gallons of oil crude oil into Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary of the Missouri River, in North Dakota. Photo courtesy North Dakota Department of Health

An ongoing oil spill in North Dakota is considered among the worst in state history.

The Belle Fourche Pipeline spilled about 530,000 gallons of crude oil into Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary of the Missouri River, according to a March 23 update to a state incident report. That's far larger than the original estimate of about 176,400 gallons.

But the new figure doesn't include an ongoing leak into the hillside near the pipeline, The Williston Herald reported. Although the spill has been contained, oil continues to leak in that area, more than three months after it began, the paper said.

"It is now believed that the pipeline was bent and ruptured due to hillside collapse and slumping, possibly aided by heavy snowfall, when it was shut down for maintenance on November 30, 2016," the operators wrote in the update. "Belle Fourche restarted the pipeline on December 1, 2016, and it is believed the leak began at that time. Belle Fourche Pipeline is now estimating that the total volume released is 12,615 barrels of crude oil."

The operators of the Belle Fourche Pipeline revised the oil spill amount in a March 23, 2017, update. Source: North Dakota Department of Health

The conditions prompted the Office of Pipeline Safety at the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to maintain corrective measures at the operation, The Associated Press reported. A top official, in a written March 24 decision, expressed concerns about future spills.

“The facility is or would be hazardous to life, property or the environment without corrective measures,” the official wrote, the AP reported.

The Belle Fourche incident occurred about 173 driving miles west of the #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota, where tens thousands of people gathered in 2016 to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. Opponents were concerned about spills into the Missouri, whose watershed is home to more than 12 million people.

Read More on the Story:
Feds retain many post-pipeline spill corrective actions (AP 3/30)
Agency: Undetected Belle Fourche leaks possible (The Williston Herald 3/30)
North Dakota pipeline spill larger than previously thought (The Christian Science Monitor 3/26)
Pipeline rupture caused by slumping (The Williston Herald 3/25)

Related Stories:
North Dakota pipeline spill occurred near Missouri River system (12/14)
Pipeline in North Dakota spills more than 176K gallons of crude oil (12/13)