Protesters arrived to save the Standing Rock region — and they end up threatening the region with their own environmental disaster.
For the protesters opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock, ND Feb. 22 was the crucial date. That was the deadline issued by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum to vacate the land. He issued an executive order stipulating the protest, at least at this location, would end.
This was not an arbitrary deadline but one that was set for a specific reason. Harsh realities meant that the activists who had been protesting the construction of the pipeline for six months needed to leave due to environmental concerns. The very people who claim to be fighting on behalf of keeping the reservation naturally pristine have instead created an environmental crisis.
As they vacated the area protesters set fires in various areas. These were not leaves and compost being combusted, but noxious smoke was created as tents, and various temporary structures and housing were being set ablaze. It was a crude coda to a lengthy assault on the land by the people claiming they were there to save the same property.
You may have heard of a large amount of trash being left behind by the self-proclaimed do-gooders, but the numbers are staggering. For weeks already earth movers and hundreds of large capacity haulers have been taking thousands of loads of trash from the camp by the tons. At least one thousand tons, it has been estimated, so far.
- “Standing Rock Environmental Protection Agency and Dakota Sanitation are working together to try and avert an environmental tragedy,” says Tom Doering, Morton County Emergency Manager
Human waste is another concern, as thousands have occupied the land, for half a year, with no sewage. The entire reason for the governor’s deadline is due to natural concerns. They need cleanup crews to work around the clock to clear the area before the upcoming spring melt. The camps were built in a flood plain, so the filth and waste will need to cleared prior to the arrival of the water, carrying toxins down river.
There is one other challenge for both cleanup crews and the environment — abandoned cars and trucks. Estimates are 200 such vehicles are at the site, and conventional tow trucks are ineffective in the snow and ice. This creates the darkest of ironies.
Each year the Cannonball river — named for currents that are strong enough to grind stones round — floods this area with force. If unable to be moved these vehicles can be carried into the Missouri River, where the gas, oil and other caustic fluids will be sure to cause problems. This is the body of water protesters claim they are worried would be tainted by the pipeline. Now their motor vehicles may end up poisoning their very object of purported concern.