State regulators investigate discharge of drilling fluid into the Willow River during construction of Line 3
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is investigating a drilling fluid spill into the Willow River in Aitkin County last week during construction of the Line 3 pipeline.
About 80 to 100 gallons of drilling fluid, or mud, were inadvertently released on July 6 at a construction site near the town of Palisade, Minnesota, the MPCA said.
Enbridge Energy is drilling under the Willow River to install a new crude oil pipeline to replace the existing Line 3. This is one of many river crossings along the 340 mile pipeline corridor in northern Minnesota.
The MPCA said the drilling mud was a combination of bentonite clay, water and xanthan gum, which it said is non-toxic and is commonly used as a food additive.
Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said in an email the company immediately halted drilling operations and crews began containment and cleanup.
“There was no impact on the aquifers or downstream because environmental controls were installed there,” Kellner said.
Environmental groups opposed to the Line 3 project have criticized the rejection, which they call a “frac-out”. They expressed concern that the fine particles in the drilling mud could impact aquatic life.
The MPCA said it was in regular communication with independent environmental monitors on site and had inspected the clean-up. Enbridge must consult with the agency before it can resume drilling on the site.
Enbridge says construction of Line 3 is more than half complete. He expects the pipeline to be operational by the fourth quarter of this year.
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