Last year, thousands of protesters camped out in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they said could have contaminated the lake it was supposed to pass under.
After the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would plot a new course for the pipeline, the protesters packed up and left…and left their trash.
As Heat Street reports, roughly 10,000 people participated in the protests and many of them came from other states. While the majority of the protesters were there for the noble reason of being “water protectors,” there were some outside agitators who traveled to North Dakota just to cause trouble.
Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, told The Bismark Tribune he’s worried the trash will contaminate nearby by waterways:
“Because of this risk of flood, we’re worried about what’s going to be left at the camp. What we want to do is make sure none of that waste gets into the Missouri River […] We’re water protectors, but we’re the ones that are going to start contaminating the water.”
Environmental groups, tribal members, and North Dakota officials are certain there will be minor flooding when the snow melts in the spring, which would carry the garbage into the Missouri River.
The amount of trash left behind is staggering according to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s estimate of how long it will take to clean up. It’s not just wrappers and food; protesters left behind tents and, in some cases, cars. And it’s all buried under the snow, making it even harder to clean up.
The tribe has scheduled eight-to-ten hour clean up shifts and expects it will take weeks to clean up the mess. ABC news reports that there are roughly 100 protesters still on site, further complicating the clean-up process.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said the clean up is an “important step” toward addressing the environmental risks:
“[The clean up is] an important step toward addressing the safety and environmental risks posed by imminent flooding.”
Protesters eventually relocated to a new protest site, but it turned out they were on private property, so the Morton County Sheriff’s Department announced that little problem had been taken care of:
“After repeated warnings to vacate a camp being illegally set up on private property in southern Morton County, south of the Backwater Bridge, approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protesters were arrested by law enforcement officials…”
After purportedly trying to help protect the environment, protesters instead left the tribe with the task of cleaning up their mess…and footing the bill for it all.