Keystone Pipeline leak clean up begins

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FREEMAN - State regulators are ensuring the clean up process for the Keystone Pipeline leak near Freeman is up to state standards. It was first reported Saturday.

TransCanada crews continue to investigate what might have caused a leak in its pipeline, just a few miles south of its Freeman pumping station.

Excavation crews are removing the dirt around the pipeline so they can identify the source of the leak, and make the necessary repairs.

Scientists with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources are staying in contact with the TransCanada team on a daily basis to make sure the clean up meets state standards.

Part of the clean up begins with separating the contaminated soil from the clean soil.

South Dakota DENR environmental scientist Brian Walsh said "the soil will be tested to determine what levels of contamination are in it, and then based on those levels, TransCanada will be required to find a properly or approved disposal facility, to transport those soils to for proper disposal."

"We have a regulatory role, an oversight role over TransCanada and their cleanup of this spill. Our job is to work with TransCanada and ensure that they take all the necessary steps to clean up the contaminated material from the spill, and comply with the state environmental standards," Walsh said.

Considering the leak happened nine feet underground, it's still not known, how much oil leaked, for how long or what caused it the spill.

The leak in the Keystone Pipeline near Freeman has some property owners in other parts of the state concerned about a future pipeline to be built through their land.

The leak comes just months after the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission granted a permit to build the Dakota Access Pipeline through a different portion of the state.

Finding an oil leak from a pipeline under your land could be one of a land owner's worst fears.

Hartford area farmer Peggy Hoogestraat said "I'm very concerned, but I'm not surprised that it has happened.

A section of the original Keystone Pipeline leaked south of the TransCanada pumping station in Freeman. It was spotted by a land owner who noticed a small slick sheen of oil on his property. It's also why Hoogestraat's has concerns about the Dakota Access Pipeline making its way to her land.

"My big concern is not only the contamination of the soil, but what will happen down stream from where ever oil leaks, now and in the future," Hoogestraat said.

Some say even if offered a promise of money, that couldn't sweeten the deal of having a pipeline in their backyard.

"I don't think money can protect us from the dangers that there will be in the future," Hoogestraat said.

State cleanup standards are designed to identify people at risk of being affected and prevent more problems down the line.

"Which are standards to protect human health in the environment, so all the contaminated soil would be removed, if water is contaminated it has to either cleaned or removed," Walsh said.

Hoogestraat is more concerned about what happens before anyone discovers a leak.

"I was always more concerned about my children and grandchildren, when I considered the pipeline, but now I'm realizing I will see spills even in my lifetime," Hoogestraat said.

"I'm not just concerned for those generations now, I'm concerned for the generations who are living today," Hoogestraat added.

The chair of the state Public Utilities Commission said there is one lawsuit which has been filed to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. A hearing to dismiss that suit is scheduled for next Tuesday in Hughes County.

The Freeman leak is TransCanada's fifth on the Keystone Pipeline in the last six years.