Impact of the Keystone Pipeline Leak on the Lakota Tribes

Oil is considered one of the most essential resources in the world today. Most industries and factories which produce some of our daily necessities are only functional with the help of oil products. Also, many of our transportation systems nowadays - from land, water, and air - mainly depend on it. Even in our own homes, oil is still present in most of our appliances and basic commodities. No one can deny that oil makes our daily activities simpler, easier, and efficient.

But anything that's misused and abused will result into something negative. Hence, oil pollution is also the most prevalent concern of world and nature advocates today. Thus, one of the most recent issues concerning this is the Keystone Oil Pipeline leak traversing from Canada to the United States. But before we dwell on the possible life-changing effects of this event, let's get to know more of this controversial pipeline.

Keystone Oil Pipeline System

The Keystone Oil Pipeline System is one of the largest oil pipelines crossing in regions of Canada and the United States. It is owned by TransCanada Corporation which has developed three significant oil system phases since 2010. The system starts in Alberta which hosts a large oil pipeline Canada has to offer, the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. It then traverses to huge oil refineries in Texas and Illinois, before it reaches oil tank companies and an oil distribution center in Oklahoma.

However, TransCanada plans to extend their reach and develop the pipeline system further with its fourth phase called the Keystone XL. The KXL pipeline will run from Nebraska, then passing by North Dakota and Montana. This project was proposed in 2005 and since then has received numerous protests from environmental groups and advocates.

In 2015, then President Obama even halted and temporarily delayed its construction due to objections on its possible harmful effects to the environment. Other factors like technological issues, increased gasoline fuel users, export restrictions, and new technologies supporting fuel efficiency have also affected Obama's decision then.

But in January 2017, President Donald Trump had shown interest of the project and allowed its construction resumption along the regions.

The Keystone Pipeline Oil Leak

Amidst the company's commitment of its safe and leak-free operation, the Keystone Pipeline System had made one of the worst oil leaks up-to-date. The company was said to leak 795,000 liters or roughly 210,000 gallons of oil from one of its underground pipeline to a farmland near Amherst, South Dakota. The leak lasted for several minutes before Keystone shut down the said pipeline.

Aside from the negative impacts it may implicate to the environment, it can also possible contaminate the main waterways and aquifers found in the area. If this happens, it would greatly affect the Lakota Indian Tribe living near these waterways in South Dakota.

However, an investigation later revealed that this farmland spill was far more serious than what was initially reported. According to credible officials, the initial spill has leaked around 9,700 barrels or 407,400 gallons of oil. This is almost twice the initial estimate which is considered the seventh biggest on-shore oil spill since 2010.

This South Dakotan spill is just one of the possibly many oil spill activities which happened during Keystone's operations. There may be other leaks which were left undocumented and unreported, which are now affecting our environment and even our health.

Environmental Effects of Oil Pollution

As mentioned, oil may be essential in our every day living but it can also negatively affect us and the environment. But how does oil affect the environment?

One should understand that oil pollution can happen in air, water, and land systems. These are usually caused by oil products which are illegally emitted to the public. Oil pollution greatly affects the environment, especially its living organisms and creatures - including men and women of all ages.

Some of these by-products include emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Lead, Formaldehyde, Benzene, 1,3-Butadiene, Acetaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX). Almost all these oil products negatively impact the air system which may cause severe global warming, air toxins, and carcinogens.

These may also cause alarming damages to the respiratory track system and heart disease. Infected people may experience asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer.

On the other hand, oil spills greatly affect living organisms worldwide. Vast wildlife habitats and breeding grounds are destroyed once these oil products came in contact with huge land and water bodies. It also affect waterways which are the main sources of drinking water of humans an animals. Once ingested, these by-products will pose severe threats to anyone's health and might even cause them their lives.

Several actions are now taken to help reduce oil pollution in all these natural systems. There are now laws and regulations being imposed by authorities to protect the world from the harmful effect of oil and its by-products. Various environmental groups and individuals are also doing lectures on how to preserve the environment. They also influence others to not use oil and support movements towards other natural energy resources.