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Pipeline Leaks 42,000 Gallons Into Indiana Stream

Energy
EPA

Forty-two thousand gallons of diesel spilled from a Marathon Petroleum Corporation pipeline into Big Creek in Posey Creek, Indiana before the leak was detected Tuesday evening, U.S. News & World Report reported Wednesday.

The pipeline was immediately shut off, and workers contained the spill with two booms before it reached the Wabash River.


Kevin Turner, the on-the-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told The Indianapolis Star that it was "considered a large spill."

Fortunately, Turner told The Star that he did not think the spill would impact wildlife. No fish deaths have yet been reported, and it is too early in the year for migratory songbirds to have arrived, he said.

The spill traveled four miles before it was stopped by the booms. "If the product had made it to the Wabash, then we would not be able to collect any of it," Turner told The Star.

Marathon was moving the fuel from its refinery in Robinson, Illinois to its terminal on the Ohio River in Mount Vernon, Indiana.

Turner told The Star that efforts were now underway to recover the fuel, a process that should take about a week. He expected 60 percent of the diesel to be skimmed.

According to The Star, this is not the first time that a Marathon pipeline has leaked. In April 2016, 48,300 gallons of oil spilled into the Wabash River from a pipeline near Mount Carmel, Illinois near the Indiana border.

That leak was caused by the fact that erosion had exposed the pipeline, which had been buried beneath the river, to the river bottom itself.

Marathon spokesperson Shane Pochard told The Star that the cause of the current spill is unknown but investigations are underway with help from the Indiana Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety.

The spill comes as pipelines are under increasing scrutiny in North America.

Indigenous groups and environmental activists ramped up protests this week against the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline extension from the Alberta tar sands to Vancouver, BC.

In 2017, environmental groups sued the Trump administration over the president's decision to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, reversing the decision by former President Barack Obama to cancel the project.

And, according to The Intercept, the Dakota Access pipeline, which was the subject of massive protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies, leaked five times in 2017.

In 2016, Undark reported that there had been more than 1,300 crude oil spills from pipelines in the U.S. since 2010, averaging one every other day. While pipelines lead to fewer spills than transporting oil by rail, the other overland option, the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. State Department, International Energy Agency and the Fraser Institute found that pipeline spills release more crude into the environment, Business Insider reported.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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