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Keystone pipeline oil to start flowing again Tuesday after ruptured pipe; no cause in sight

A look at the oil spill in Marshall County in far northeast South Dakota near the North Dakota border. Submitted photo

AMHERST, S.D. -- TransCanada Corp. has announced its Keystone Pipeline that runs across eastern North Dakota and South Dakota and ruptured near the state line almost two weeks ago will start flowing again at a reduced rate on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The company said its repair and restart plans have been reviewed by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration with no objections, permitting a controlled return to service.

The pipeline oil leak was discovered early in the morning on Nov. 16 and an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil leaked into a grassy field about 20 miles south of the state line near Amherst in far northeast South Dakota.

As of a report late Monday, company spokesman Mark Cooper, who is at the site, said 172 people were working there and that 49,533 gallons of standing oil in the field has been vacuumed up and stored in oil tanker trucks.

Cooper said perhaps by later in the week, the process of excavating the contaminated soil would begin.

The soil will be sent to an accredited facility in Minnesota that can “dispose of the oil in an environmentally responsible manner,” said the company.

So far, the company also said their air-monitoring equipment at the site hasn’t detected any concerns and there have been no water issues, including after checking wells for local landowners. One area resident’s well was checked 1½ miles away and the company said test results were normal.

As for any cause of the leak, preliminary inspections of the damaged section will be completed on site by both TransCanada and PHMSA staff, then sent to Washington, D.C., for a complete investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board’s Metallurgical Laboratory, said Cooper.

He said there was no timeline that he was aware of as to when the cause might be determined.

Cooper said the damaged section of pipe was removed from the ground on Sunday.

An earlier, much smaller spill, on the Keystone pipeline in southeast South Dakota was found to be caused by a faulty weld on the pipe.

The company also said that they were continuing to evaluate the “most appropriate restoration methods for the site” with state, federal and local officials.

As part of the plans to get oil flowing again,TransCanada said it will operate the pipeline at reduced pressure starting Tuesday to ensure a safe and gradual increase in the volume of crude oil moving through the system.

The company said it was working with its customers and will continue working closely with them as it begins to return to normal operating conditions and will comply with any future PHMSA orders and requirements as a result of the oil spill to ensure the integrity of the pipeline.

The company also said they continue to appreciate the cooperation and support from local officials, emergency response personnel and commissioners in Marshall County, as well as the landowner who has granted permission to access land for assessment, repair and clean-up activities.