LaDuke: Gov. Burgum's claim of potential water pollution at DAPL site is ironic
Gov. Doug Burgum and authorities recently peddled a story to the media about the feces and garbage runoff into the river from the Oceti Sakowin Camp requiring immediate attention as a public health risk. That's rather ironic considering the state long ago removed all sanitation support to the thousands of people who had come to live in the state's 14th largest city. The spin continues in North Dakota's corporate-fed media.
As Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle explains, "Racist biased media use this as opportunity to talk smack once again. Some empty tents and cardboard can be recycled, etc... benzene, oil and other chemicals in the water cannot be removed. So... when it comes to trash and waste, I will take some jacked-up tarps any day, over 50 - 100 years of contaminated water from oil pipeline spills and frack waste contamination."
Let's be honest, North Dakota does not care about garbage or pollution. In fact, the state decided that instead of protecting citizens from the radioactive fracking waste, they would increase the recommended daily allowance of radiation allowed from 5 to 50 picocuries per gram. Let me remind Burgum that at no point has radiation become safer for your citizens.
That's just the beginning of the garbage insanity. Morton County sprayed a number of unknown toxins from antifreeze-laden water cannons to mace onto the Water Protectors and into the river. Rancher David Meyers purchased 40,000 pounds of Rozol, a prairie dog poison, to be used on land that adjoins the Missouri River. An Environmental Protection Agency-led investigation determined 40,000 pounds of Rozol had been illegally distributed across more than 5,400 acres on both the Cannonball Ranch and the Wilder ranches.
Instead of being applied into the prairie dog burrows, the bright blue poison pellets were broadcast on the ground. Dead prairie dogs were left where they died instead of being expeditiously removed to protect other wildlife. Six dead eagles were found in April, dead bison were also found as recently as August.
According to the report, Meyer did not have proper pesticide certification to apply the Rozol. Six months after he poisoned the land, Meyer sold the Cannonball Ranch to Energy Transfer Partners for a reported $18 million. That's some garbage that will not be easy to clean up.
Since Jan. 2016, more than 100,900 gallons of crude oil, waste oil, bio solids, natural gas and brine were spilled in North Dakota and surrounding areas, according to the North Dakota Department of Health records. Approximately 50,000 gallons of slaked lime solids slid into the Missouri River in June causing unknown impacts. Few companies are ever fined in a North Dakota regulatory system which appears controlled by oil companies. In early 2016, the commission reviewed six outstanding spill cases with fines totaling $600,000, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
As journalist Chris Hagen writes, "Additionally, past spills are still being cleaned up around the state, such as the Tesoro Corp. spill of 2013, the XTO Energy, and the Oasis Petroleum Inc. spills of 2014 and 2015, according to Bill Suess, Spill Investigation Program manager of North Dakota Department of Health. Spills occur on a daily basis, Suess said, the cleanup is costly, and companies are rarely fined." " 'Not everyone gets fined,' Suess said. 'Usually we hold off as long as we can on the fines because it is a motivator to get them cleaning it up.' " In 2015 and 2016, North Dakota Industrial Commission proposed a total of $4,525,000 in penalties, but collected just $125,976.
So, let's talk about garbage, North Dakota. As residents cheer the completion of the pipeline, the Trump Administration has buried an Interior memorandum which reaffirms the denial of the permit. After all, if the pipeline was not good enough for the water supply of Bismarck, why would it be good enough for the water supply of Standing Rock? I can't say it's water under the bridge at this point. I can say that Burgum has a lot of work to do to clean up the garbage of the state. Not only the toxins of an oil industry, unregulated, but the toxins of human rights violations.
This will be a challenge: A survey by the National Jury Project found that 82 percent of the potential jury pool in Bismarck thought that the water protector defendants should be convicted. What about David Meyers? I think North Dakota has violated the covenant with the Creator, and Rights of Nature. Let's be better to each other. We should all work together on this, Doug.
LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota's White Earth Reservation.