Keystone pipeline spill affecting nearly 10 times more land than first thought: report

Keystone pipeline spill affecting nearly 10 times more land than first thought: report

The Keystone pipeline spill has affected nearly 10 times more land in eastern North Dakota than first thought, officials told The Hill Monday.

Karl Rockeman, North Dakota's division of water quality director, said the leak is estimated to have impacted 4.8 acres, or almost 209,100 square feet of land. The Associated Press reported earlier estimates pegged the extent of affected land at 22,500 square feet.

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Rockeman said earlier estimates were based on visual information and further inspection has produced a more accurate understanding of the amount of land affected. He said he thinks the cleanup is "making good progress."

TC Energy spokesman Terry Cunha said the volume of oil released has not changed as the company obtained a more "accurate assessment" of the damage. He said the company has recovered 8,100 barrels to date.

"During the initial response to the incident, we provide the best estimate at the time," Cunha said in a statement. "As we began to cleanup and remediate the impacted area, we were able to get a more accurate assessment of the area."

The cause of the spill, which began Oct. 29 and sent about 383,000 gallons of oil into the land, is still unknown. A third-party laboratory is investigating a part of the pipe affected, according to the news wire. 

North Dakota environmental scientist Bill Suess told the AP that TC Energy, the company responsible for the pipeline, did not have an estimate on the land affected, but said it included some wetlands and not any sources of drinking water. 

Last week, TC Energy announced the pipeline returned to service after the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration approved the repair and restart plan.

As part of the cleanup that continued Monday, TC Energy is moving contaminated soil that reached up to 6 feet deep to a landfill in Sawyer, N.D.

“We really don’t have any risk of anything spreading at this point,” Suess told the AP.

The $5.2 billion pipeline first pumped oil in 2011 and goes through Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada and then North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

The controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline would become a part of the system if approved.