Supporters of the Dakota Access Pipeline insist that the project is safe and that it is not a threat to the water supply of millions of people. However, pipelines, in general, are dangerous projects, with ruptures occurring around the world on a near daily basis.
There is also evidence that the Dakota Access Pipeline is even more dangerous than typical pipeline projects, because it is slated to run under a river that millions of people depend on for drinking water, and the pipeline is also in the direct path of a landslide zone, which could cause obvious and disastrous complications.
The US Amry Corps of Engineers is the government organization responsible for assessing the safety of the land to determine whether the project will be a threat, and so far, all of their reports have indicated that the pipeline will be safe. However, a recent independent review of the pipeline path determined that the Army Corps overlooked massive dangers in the project and that their environmental assessment was “seriously deficient.”
Not trusting the assessment of the government or the pipeline corporation, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe brought in outside contractors to investigate.
According to Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in pipeline safety, the Army Corps assessment was inadequate and that he disagrees with the possible environmental impact.
“The Environmental Assessment is incomplete. I don’t agree with the finding of no significant impacts,” he said.
One of the major issues raised by Kuprewicz was the fact that the Army corps overlooked the risk of landslides, which are prevalent in the area. The Army Corps allegedly did not even inspect the areas that are prone to landslides because they do not occur on federal land, but they do occur in the path of the pipeline, and experts say that a landslide could easily cause a pipeline to rupture.
“If you have a pipeline routed in a landslide area, the only thing you can do there is to route it out of the landslide area,” Kuprewicz said.
Kuprewicz also said that there are not proper measures to shut the pipelines down as soon as a leak happens.
“I’ve been in too many investigations now where they’ve claimed they are going to shut the line down in less than 10 minutes and it’s [actually] 3 hours later. You are overstating the technical ability of the equipment to do its job,” he said.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the pipeline has denied these recent findings and is using the Army Corps assessment as a defense.
“We are confident the USACE [US Army Corps of Engineers] has adequately addressed the portion of the project subject to their review. They are the experts in this area and we believe they have done an excellent job addressing any comments received to date. The decisions by two separate federal courts show that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted with great care and followed the law with respect to the river crossing permits issued to Dakota Access,” Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Vicki Granado said in a statement.
However, Army Corps spokesperson Moira Kelley said that they will be taking the independent investigation into account and will consider rerouting the pipeline.
Kuprewicz and his crew are not the only experts who believe that these landslides could be a huge problem. According to Mohammad Najafi, another pipeline safety expert from the University of Texas at Arlington, a pipeline in this path would not be a good idea.
“The pipe is not designed for that load. There will be a lot of weight on the pipe, that would cause the pipe to break, that’s obvious,” Najafi said.
Najafi suggested that the pipeline should be rerouted and that the pipe should be thicker and encased in concrete.
Najafi also agreed that there are not enough safeguards in place in case of a pipeline rupture.
“They get a lot of false alarms with this type of equipment and the operators don’t know which ones are right and which ones are wrong. By the time action can be taken, millions of gallons of oil can be spilled,” he said.
The pipeline is being constructed by the Energy Transfer Partners corporation and will stretch 1,172 miles from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, crossing the Missouri river.
The pipeline runs alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, and according to the National Historic Preservation Act, the tribe should have been consulted about the project before it was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe was not contacted and they contest that the pipeline threatens their water supply, their way of life, and is technically on property that was stolen from them.