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Letter: Oil spills are a concern

There is already one oil spill study site in northern Minnesota: Pinewood near Bemidji. Back in 1979 a spill happened in a shallow, glacial aquifer there. After all these years it has only been partially cleaned up. Still two feet of oil under 20 feet of water.

The spill site has been given the honor of this dubious title: “National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site.” (You can even Google that).

For the past 32 years, a collaborative group of scientists from government, academic and industry have been led by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in an intensive survey.

Just on Jan. 21, results on what they found about arsenic were published in the journal “Groundwater.”

Carefully measured samples taken in the field revealed arsenic concentrations reaching 230 micrograms per liter. That is 23 times the current safe drinking water standard of 10 micrograms per liter.

Arsenic and iron oxides are commonly found in sediments across the U.S. However, researchers feel that microbes breaking down the carbon-rich petroleum in low oxygen conditions led to higher concentrations of arsenic in groundwater within the spill plume.

Though research work suggested that this arsenic released in the plume may reattach to aquifer sediments down-gradient, researchers feel continued long-term monitoring is needed.

Arsenic has been termed a “significant” public health concern for groundwater used for drinking water. Arsenic is a toxin and carcinogen linked to a number of skin, bladder and lung cancers.

Enbridge happens to be one of the study collaborators. Why isn’t Enbridge satisfied with having the one existing study site in northern Minnesota?

If it persists and insists on a Sandpiper route through the lakes and river country, does it want the creation of the “Headwaters National Oil Spill Ought to Known Better Research Area?”

John Weber