Three years and three months later, a massive oil spill in North Dakota still isn't fully cleaned up. The company responsible hasn't even set a date for completion. Though crews have been working around the clock to deal with the Tesoro Corp. pipeline break, which happened in a wheat field in September 2013, less than a third of the 840,000 gallons that spilled has been recovered. While the nearest home was a half-mile away and the state said no water sources were contaminated and no wildlife hurt, one of the largest onshore oil spills recorded in the US serves for some as a cautionary example, especially given a recent pipeline break in Belfield, about 150 miles south, and ongoing debates over the four-state Dakota Access pipeline.
Texas-based company Tesoro and federal regulators have said a lightning strike may have caused the 2013 rupture in the pipeline, which runs from Tioga to a rail facility outside of Columbus, near the Canadian border. The cleanup has cost Tesoro more than $49 million to date and is expected to top $60 million, according to recent filings to the state. Crews have had to dig as deep as 50 feet to remove hundreds of thousands of tons of oil-tainted soil, North Dakota Health Department environmental scientist Bill Suess says. The company has now switched to special equipment that cooks hydrocarbons from crude-soaked soil in a process called thermal desorption before putting it back in place. Landowners, not the monitoring equipment in place, discovered both the Tesoro and Belfield breaks, reports the AP. (Read more oil spill stories.)