Native American tribes across the country continue to march in their respective cities to show their dedicated support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Media outlets have covered the ongoing protest exhaustively, which makes it interesting that, when a prominent pipeline in the Southeast broke, major media outlets didn’t cover the news nearly as thoroughly or frequently.
While some outlets did report on the spill on their websites, the focus remained on the forthcoming gas shortages and the resultant spike in gas prices residents could expect. It’s another testament to the fact that mainstream media would rather focus on how news will affect consumers than how it will affect the environment.
The Colonial Pipeline has main lines running through roughly 10 states. Having broken in Shelby County, Alabama, the rupture caused a leakage of 250,000 gallons beginning on September 9th, forcing workers to close the pipeline.
The leak resulted in 6,000 barrels spilling at an inactive mine site. Hundreds of employees and contract workers cleaning up the mess have been subjected to the vapours from the excessive amounts of gasoline in the restricted area. They are only allowed to pump water out of the mining pond when conditions are deemed safe, however, since high concentrations of benzene and gasoline vapours have been repeatedly reported. In fact, the Pelham Fire Department had to close the site for 83 hours because of the dangerous concentration levels.
Three retention ponds are on the property near the spill site, with Pond 2 thought to have collected the majority of the gasoline, while Pond 1, which is uphill from the leak, has shown no traces of gasoline. Pond 3, which is connected to Pond 2 via an underwater channel that has since been blocked, has shown trace amounts of broken down gasoline parts.
The owner of the pipeline has teamed up with the EPA to ensure that the spill doesn’t make its way to nearby rivers, creeks, and streams. EPA representatives and environmental group Cahaba Riverkeeper say the water samples in Peel Creek and the Cahaba haven’t revealed any levels of gasoline or gasoline components in their respective waters. Crews constructed multiple underflow dams to keep the leakage from affecting these areas.
Colonial claimed on Wednesday that 60% of the surface of the pond has been cleaned, while the EPA reported that 85,732 gallons of gasoline have been recovered from Pond 2, along with 292,000 gallons of gasoline-contacted water.
“Ultimately we’re fairly certain that Pond 2 is going to have to be pumped completely dry, all that water removed,” explained EPA on-scene coordinator Kevin Eichinger. “Excavation of the sediment is going to have to occur, excavation of the impacted vegetative debris all around it.”
Pumping Pond 3 is not an option at the moment, however. “Pond 3 still has fish living in it, it’s still an active ecosystem,” Eichinger explained. “Most likely, with that pond, we’ll either do aeration to drive those organic chemicals out or do some sort of other treatment, but currently we don’t plan to pump Pond 3 down or do any extensive remediation there because these are very low levels of the [gasoline] constituents.”
The leak forced Alabama and Georgie to declare a state of emergency, warning their citizens of impending gas shortages and the possible rising prices such shortages would lead to. Meanwhile, the EPA has recovered seven dead mammals at the site, including a rabbit, two raccoons, one fox, one coyote, one muskrat, and one armadillo. They also found four turtles and two birds.
And while this leak went largely unreported by mainstream media, the incident makes it all the more clear why the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has opposed the construction of the pipeline over the past two years. Not only would it violate their ancestral land, but it would also, seemingly inevitably, lead t0 the contamination of their water. Indeed, the tribe has noted that all pipelines will leak at some point, and by constructing one on their land, they will be forced to come to terms with the fact that their land will be forever destroyed. So while mainstream media attempts to keep those dangers at bay, this recent leak is hard to ignore.
It’s time for news that isn’t fear-based, but heart-based; news that fosters connection, not division.
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