What was the extent of the drilling fluid spill at the Willow River construction site, and what was done to correct it?

On July 6, 2021 there was a drilling fluid spill on the Willow River in Aitkin County at one of Enbridge’s construction sites for its new Line 3 oil pipeline. Between 80 and 100 gallons of “drilling mud” were released, according to the MPCA.

Line 3 opponents are again trying to mislead people about what happened and the impact on the river. However, here are some important facts to know about the spill:

  • Drilling mud is a non-toxic fluid made up of bentonite clay, water, and xantham gum
  • Xantham gum is a food additive used in everything from ice cream and yogurt to gluten free bread.
  • Bentonite clay is used for spa treatments and natural healing
  • The amount of the spill is small enough to fit inside of a child-sized swimming pool
  • There were no impacts to aquifers and no downstream impacts
  • All cleanup is now complete, and was supervised by trained environmental inspectors and third-party monitors.

Here is the full statement from Enbridge after cleanup was completed:

On July 6, 2021, Enbridge reported an inadvertent return after of a small amount of drilling fluid reached the surface during a horizontal directional drill (HDD) procedure at the Willow River in Aitkin County, Minnesota. Drilling fluid is non-toxic and primarily made up of naturally occurring bentonite clay and water and is approved for use by the DNR and PCA. It also includes xanthum gum, which is a common food additive often used in gluten free baking.

There were no impacts to any aquifers nor were there downstream impacts because environmental control measures were installed at this location.

Upon identifying the inadvertent return, the drilling operation was immediately shut down and crews followed the procedure for managing containment and cleanup of material as specified in Project permits. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were also notified.

Clean up of the of the affected area was completed under the supervision of trained environmental inspectors and third-party agency monitors.

The real fact to not lose sight of – those opposed to this project will do anything and say anything to stop Line 3.

Additional Information:

The Truth about Line 3 

With so much information being shared and gathered about the Line 3 replacement project, it’s important to help everyone stay focused on the facts, address any misconceptions, and make sure that information about Line 3 is grounded in truth.

Minnesotans for Line 3 has identified some common questions about the project along with information, facts, and other background that answer those important questions.