Sweat the Small Shit

5 Mar

Near Daily Oil Spills Continuously Contaminate the Environment


Environmental degradation comes in all shapes and sizes- but no matter the size, it adds up.  As people that give a shit, it is imperative we be critical of where and  how much attention is paid to the occasional “major” catastrophe while  globally, nationally and most importantly, locally, extraction industries trash the world around them.

In his article, “As BP Battles in Court over Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills are Happening All Over the Place,” John Upton highlights the media’s tendency to ignore frequent small spills, allowing environmentally destructive incidences to appear infrequent and preventable.

A “small” spray of crude gushes into the Gulf after a boat crashed into a wellhead.

A “small” spray of crude gushes into the Gulf after a boat crashed into a wellhead.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill was notable because of the huge number of barrels leaked, the economic and environmental devastation wrought, and the number of people directly affected. But oil spills are not an aberration. Spills are a constant and poisonous cost of the world’s dependence upon fossil fuels.

Little attention is paid to this steady stream of spills. That’s in part because company and government officials often labor to convince us that each single spill is minor, unimportant, and environmentally benign.

This week, while BP was defending itself in court against claims and potential fines stemming from the 2010 disaster, emergency responders were kept busy dealing with new oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

Upton goes on to list lesser known spills that have happened in Louisiana, Texas, the Philippines and Nigeria in the recent past. Each spill contaminating water, air and soil and  damaging the lives of humans and non-humans for years to come.

For another example of the small scale destruction that happen everyday under our petrol-aucracy we turn to Commerce City (outside of Denver, Co). Within a five mile radius of the historically African-American/immigrant residential community we find the Suncor refinery (which processes tar sands), a waste-water management facility, Colorado Serum Company (manufactures livestock antibiotics, etc), Cherokee Coal Plant, National By-Products and the Purina dog chow factory. All these factories pollute directly into the South Platte River which transects the area. Additionally, Sand Creek, which runs confluence to the Platte River, flows directly between the Suncor refinery and the coal plant. It goes without saying the water here is far from safe or life-sustaining, yet few understand and fewer resist the contamination of one of Denver’s most important rivers.

Then to top things off, approximately one year ago, the tar sands piped down from Canada to the Suncor refinery began to leak into Sand Creek and continued to leak for an undetermined amount of time.  In response, The Denver Post published the article, “Toxics from Suncor refinery spill still seeping into water; Colorado vows to “accelerate” response,” which briefly depicted the spill, unnoticed by many of the folks living in direct vicinity.

Workers contracted by Suncor use vacuum trucks and absorbent material to suck up water mixed with an unidentified liquid leaking into Sand Creek north of downtown Denver on Nov. 30, 2011  Read more: Toxics from Suncor refinery spill still seeping into water; Colorado vows to "accelerate" response - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_19787661#ixzz2MW3jlpzN Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse Follow us: @Denverpost on Twitter | Denverpost on Facebook

Another spill adds to the long trail of destruction left by Suncor, TransCanada and their ilk.

Black goo is still seeping into waterways from Suncor Energy’s oil refinery north of Denver, and the latest tests show benzene levels 48 times the limit for drinking water, even downstream of the point at which Sand Creek flows into the South Platte River…

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data — from samples taken by Suncor — showed benzene concentrations at 720 parts per billion on Jan. 9 at the point where Sand Creek meets the South Platte, up from 190 on Jan. 6, and 144 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking-water standard. Benzene is a chemical found in crude oil that is classified as cancer-causing, especially affecting blood.

The South Platte River is the main water source for northeastern Colorado and the Denver area.

Spilled contaminants from decades of refinery operations at the site have seeped underground, “and it is snaking through. The pressures change. It finds the path of least resistance, and that’s apparently what has happened: It has found the path of least resistance to get into Sand Creek,” Colorado health department environmental-programs director Martha Rudolph said in an interview last week.

The Suncor oil spill in not an isolated incident, neither are the recent spills noted by Upton. Upton concludes his article by sarcastically relating the spills to the pressing matter of TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline.
But don’t you worry about the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada assures us it will be safe:

Each year, billions of gallons of crude oil and petroleum products are safely transported on pipelines. If they do occur, pipeline leaks are small; most pipeline leaks involve less than three barrels, 80% of spills involve less than 50 barrels, and less than 0.5 percent of spills total more than 10,000 barrels.Safety of the public and the environment is a top priority for TransCanada. 

First, bullshit. Second, no matter the size of an oil spill, any spill is a bad and unsafe spill, no ifs, ands or buts.

We must remember to fight and shed light on small oils spills as well as large spills; not only because of their cumulative effects on the environment but also because of their near constant occurrence in traditionally oppressed communities.  To stop smaller more intricate parts of the system is to better understand and resist the whole. Any small fight contributes to the larger effort to resist the extraction industry and  system of destruction..

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