Iowa pipeline spill draws reactions

On Jan. 25, the Magellan Midstream Partners pipeline in Worth County, Iowa burst and leaked around 46,830 gallons (1,100 barrels) of diesel fuel.

Cleanup started immediately as soon as the leak was found in the pressurized 12-inch diameter pipe.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the oil that leaked into farmland was not close to any streams or bodies of water, but if the oil would have gotten into water, it could have been a health risk.  Clean up methods included vacuuming up the oil and replacing the contaminated soil with clean soil on the farm.

The Magellan pipeline burst became a vivid reminder of the controversy of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Bakken construction project that has been the subject of protests for several months.

At least 28 pipeline ruptures were reported in 2016 in the United States, leaking thousands of gallons of crude oil, gasoline, diesel, butane and natural gas. “They break all the time,” said Ed Fallon, an Iowa environmentalist and former state legislator.

President Donald Trump recently made the decision to advance the construction of the pipeline. Many disagree with the pipeline project because it takes private land for a corporate project, not for public use.

“Here in Iowa, the argument has been made to run the pipeline across private land in the state using eminent domain — but there is no public interest/utility in the pipeline — it is a corporate interest,” said Elizabeth Sutton, an assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa and protester of the DAPL project.

Fallon agreed, “It’s wrong to take farmer’s’ land against their will.”

Sutton and Fallon both participated with hundreds of Native Americans in the Standing Rock protests of the DAPL project. Sutton wrote in AntiDote Zine that pipeline construction continues a long history of disrespect of Native American’s land and culture. “What is happening on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as water protectors continue to fight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has deep roots in the history of the United States, and European colonialism more generally.”

Another concern about pipelines is that leaks put water supplies at risk. “In Keokuk, [Iowa], where the pipeline will cross the Mississippi River, water protectors continue to take action (Mississippi Stand is the activist group down there),” Sutton said.

Finally, the long-term concern about pipelines is the non-renewable fossil fuels they carry. “If it’s built, it will make climate change even worse,” Fallon said.

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