Letter: Benzene Brew a Risk to Drinking Water

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Article courtesy of Cindy Myers | August 1, 2015 | Argus Leader | Shared as educational material

Keystone XL will transport nearly 35 million gallons of poison through South Dakota each day. Of particular note is benzene, a potent carcinogen. The goal in drinking water is zero. KXL will carry diluted bitumen, also known as dilbit, which is significantly different than conventional crude. Dilbit will sink in water, making it much more difficult to clean up.

The environmental study warns, “Because the diluted bitumen crude oils have a significant amount of lighter hydrocarbons added, they tend to have higher benzene concentrations than many other heavy oils.” Dr. Arden Davis testifies, “Because of benzene’s solubility and its allowable limit of only 5 parts per billion in drinking water, a pipeline leak could contaminate a large volume of surface water or ground water” and “if a release occurred at this crossing (Cheyenne River) and it could not be controlled or went undetected for 12 to 24 hours, petroleum contaminants could reach the Missouri River, potentially affecting water supplies and surface-water users.”

It is very possible. Benzene contaminated the Glendive, Mont., public water system when oil spilled into the Yellowstone River this past January. Levels of benzene were up to triple the maximum contamination level. Officials did not warn residents until two days later.

Water treatment systems do not remove benzene. There has not been a health impact assessment prepared for this project, there is no evidence of a medical response plan, and I question disaster preparations by public water utilities. I do not believe the threat of water contamination has been fully recognized.

The route nearly touches Colome’s well field acreage. It would take only 17 drops of benzene to make the 50,000 gallons of water in Colome’s water tower undrinkable. A benzene brew crossing South Dakota drinking water each day is a ridiculous risk.

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