Anishinaabe photographer uncovers continuing frac-out damage near the Mississippi Headwaters

When we talk about a frac-out, it’s easy to think of it as a one-time event. The spill happens and (hopefully) gets cleaned up.

But on Sept. 17, Ron Turney of the Indigenous Environmental Network captured footage that shows much more going on beneath the surface. Near Camp Firelight seven miles from the Mississippi Headwaters, there is evidence of frac-out damage not previously seen, now that Enbridge has removed it temporary plank road.

Site on former plank road used by Enbridge near the Headwaters. Photo: Ron Turney

Turney reports that recent heavy rains surfaced the mud, which continued to seep into the river. Enbridge’s temporary boardwalk at the site also may have concealed the damage.  

Scientists confirm that these photos are a wake-up call to the deeper effects of frac-outs.

According to Water Resources Scientist Christy Dolph:

We have long said that there is likely additional drilling fluid beneath the surface at these locations that wasn’t immediately evident, and likely couldn’t be readily removed without more extensive work by Enbridge. And that if there is drilling fluid in the environment, it might take a while (and something like heavier rains) to move it around to different places.

Christy Dolph

Geologist Laura Triplett agreed that drilling fluid could just now be appearing at the surface as the water table rises and the ground begins to rehydrate after a severe drought.

In recent days, water protectors have continued to document signs of pollution that may be related to the frac-outs. Follow the Indigenous Environmental Network for updates.

The public deserves answers about what we’re seeing in these photographs. Is this drilling fluid? If so, how much remains at these locations, either at the surface or underneath? Does the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have a plan to address these illegal discharges? Does Enbridge?