Keystone Pipeline Spills Oil In Northeast South Dakota

Nov 16, 2017

Aerial photo of the Amherst Incident, a spill of over 200,000 gallons of oil from the Keystone pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota.
Credit TransCanada

About 75 TransCanada representatives are securing the oil spill site near Amherst, South Dakota.

TransCanada Corp. says its Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.

The spill occurred Thursday morning.

Brian Walsh is with the South Dakota Department of Energy and Natural Resources. He says TransCanada is responding according to state agreements with the company.

“We have a handbook for cleaning up petroleum spills. The simplest description of it is there will be, likely be excavation of contaminated soil and then an evaluation of whether there are impacts to the ground water or not. Then we would require them to mitigate those impacts as well once they’re identified,” Walsh says.

The company said that crews shut down the pipeline this Thursday morning after a drop in pressure was detected resulting from an oil leak that's under investigation.

The section of pipe near the Ludden pump station in Marshall County, South Dakota, has been isolated and the company says emergency response procedures were activated.

Walsh says there’s potential for shallow ground water near the spill site, but none that people draw water from.

Walsh says this oil spill is much larger than the Keystone pipeline spill last year.

“In April of 2016, TransCanada had a spill on this pipeline near Freeman and it was about a 400 barrel release. The reported volume for this release is 5,000 barrels," Walsh says. "So that gives you a little bit of a frame of reference to recent pipeline spills in the state.”

Walsh says TransCanada will have to excavate all contaminated soil and conduct a groundwater contamination survey.

Shannon Marvel with the Aberdeen American News says the spill happened in a remote area near the town of Amherst.

“Well, Marshall County is basically crop land.  This was on CRP land.  Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge is about 20 miles a little less than 20 miles west of this location," Marvel says. "But, where the leak occurred, it was basically just crop land and crop acres.”

Marvel says, for the most part, those who live near the spill appear to be going about their business.

“You know, the residents aren’t too concerned—they consider it a quick response time.  This is an area that’s really rural," Marvel says. "They’re not used to the attention, but I think they trust their emergency officials to tell them if it’s an emergency situation.”  

It’s the second spill in as many years for the pipeline, which runs from Canada to Illinois and Oklahoma. Construction on the Keystone Pipeline was finished in 2010.