Spill Inc., U.S.A.

Abby Zimet

The chaotic environmental disaster that is West Virginia's chemical spill by the Koch-owned Freedom (from regulation) Industries continues to unfold like a terrifyingly bad movie. This week saw the sudden disclosure that the spill into the Elk River public drinking water supply included yet another chemical, though health officials say information about its potential impact is "very limited," partly because company clowns won't divulge information that might kill people but that is nonetheless "proprietary" and in any case nobody's tested the water, which is why state officials have told 300,000 angry residents the water may be sorta kinda safe to use and drink though then again it might not be. The scariest thing here: This is not an anomaly. A slew of statistics - over 6,500 leaks and accidents in one year, 1,374 facilities leaking 194 million pounds of 287 chemicals in another year, proof that many many spills go unreported, etc - tell us this is the untenable norm. Revisiting a stunning time-lapse video of pipeline incidents from 1986 to 2013, based on data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, reminds us to fear for the planet.

From the video:  According to the data, since 1986 there have been nearly 8,000 incidents (nearly 300 per year on average), resulting in more than 500 deaths (red dots on the video), more than 2,300 injuries (yellow dots on the video), and nearly $7 billion in damage. Since 1986 pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.


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