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Oil pipeline leak: "It was a better spot to have one"

PIERRE -- TransCanada is nearly finished hauling away soil from the Hutchinson County site where the company's oil pipeline was found on April 2 to be leaking, an environmental scientist for state government said Thursday.

PIERRE - TransCanada is nearly finished hauling away soil from the Hutchinson County site where the company's oil pipeline was found on April 2 to be leaking, an environmental scientist for state government said Thursday.

Brian Walsh briefed members of the South Dakota Water Management Board about the incident. He said the pipeline lost about 400 barrels of oil.

A landowner noticed oil on the surface of the ground. Within minutes TransCanada shut down the pipeline, according to Walsh.

"It impacted soil only," he said.

All of the free oil on the surface had been collected by the time he arrived on April 3.

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Federal regulators gave TransCanada permission to resume operation of the pipeline on April 9 at limited pressure. The leak occurred at a weld point between two types of pipe near a county gravel road.

Walsh said about 12,000 cubic yards of soil were removed and taken to a Waste Management facility at Glencoe, Minn.

There weren't shallow aquifers in the area and the soil featured about 150 feet of till that had low permeability, according to Walsh.

"That's a monumental task doing that kind of cleanup and I'm sure it's expensive," Tim Bjork of Pierre, a board member, remarked.

Walsh replied that the agency where he works, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, doesn't track the cleanup spending in such instances.

Bjork asked whether the company could find "a leak that small" through its detection system.

"Those small leaks are the hardest to find," Walsh responded. "It depends on the leak and the detection system."

He added, "If you had to have a leak, it was a better spot to have one."

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