The Standing Rock Sioux, one of the poorest communities in America, are
facing off against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which plans to transport
500,000 barrels of crude Bakken oil underneath the Missouri River a half
mile upriver from the Standing Rock reservation.
When the Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline plans, they did
so using an environmental assessment prepared by the pipeline's developer,
Dakota Access LLC. They approved the plans over the objections of three
federal agencies. Since that time, the pipeline plans have moved the proposed
Missouri River crossing from 10 miles north of Bismark, the state capital,
to a half mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
The EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic
Preservation all issued comments on the proposed plan, recommending further
environmental assessment. Concerns addressed by the federal agencies were
to the safety of the water supply for the tribe, environmental impact
of the pipeline on the river, and an inadequate environmental justice
At its worst, there is an appearance of blatant corruption or gross negligence
by a federal agency. At best? Environmental and cultural disregard and
disrespect better suited to the education and attitudes of 1816 than 2016.
But what are the health risks for the people who drink water if the Missouri
River was contaminated from a pipeline breach? Are there real, scientifically
valid concerns about the health of people who live in proximity to oil
pipelines and oilfields? And if so, what health risks are engendered by
workers at Bakken?
Hazardous working conditions can be those immediately experienced, such
as industrial accidents, burns from fire and explosions, and falls from
equipment failure. They can also be more long-term, as health consequences
of chemical exposure, industrial solvent exposure, organic hydrocarbons,
and other hazardous materials may develop over years or decades. What
does science already know about the hazardous materials exposure of oil
field and pipeline workers?
Hydrogen Sulfide gas is released from wells, pipelines, and refineries.
Benzene is released from holding tanks and wells during frackingoperations. Both
NIOSH and OSHA are studying the long-term effects on gas and oil field
workers, including Bakken oil field workers, but we already know conclusively
that exposure to too much of these gases causes cancer in children and
adults. Bone marrow, kidneys, the nervous system, and the liver are particularly
Government agencies are studying how much exposure is safe. Research into
organic solvents such as those used in oilfield, pipeline, and refinery
work have consistently shown higher levels of leukemia, lung cancer, and
various GI cancers in workers with chronic, low-level exposure.
Crystalline silica, used in a number of oil field operations, especially fracking, causes
Silicosis, a disabling lung disease, and lung cancer. NIOSH and OSHA have issued a
Trichloralethylene, used in degreasing metal, causes liver cancer, leukemia, and other cancers
and neurological health problems.
Organic solvent exposure in groundwater causes developmental and neurological disease in infants
Polycyclical Aromatic Hydrocarbons is, according to the CDC, "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
Exposure to various hydrocarbons, including those
used in oil fields and on pipelines, are associated with an increased risk of ALS and other lethal neurological
For more information on
workman's comp and illness or injury related to hazardous materials exposure while working
in Bakken, please