Oil pipeline in Archie, Mo., sparks worry over water

ARCHIE, Mo. - A proposed oil pipeline set to pass just north of the small rural community of Archie, Mo., has brought concern for the local water supply, along with hope for an economic shot in the arm.

Enbridge Energy's "Flanagan South" pipeline would run roughly parallel to an aging, smaller line for 600 miles from central Illinois to a crude oil terminal in Oklahoma. In Archie, with a population of 1,170, the pipeline must pass under the Grand River, which provides some of Archie's water supply and nearly all of the drinking water for nearby Adrian, Mo.

Environmentalists worry the pipeline, despite being buried deep below the riverbed, could pose a hazard to water supplies should it ever rupture. City Councilman Danny Ferguson has been outspoken in questioning the safety protocols Enbridge is putting in place to protect water supplies.

"It's important to me because I drink that water every day and our community depends on it," Ferguson said, "Without a source of water we can't continue our lives here,"

Ferguson's concerns, and those of environmental groups like the Sierra Club which have come out against the pipeline, center on a high-profile rupture and leak from another Enbridge pipeline. In July 2010, a 30-inch pipe ruptured near Marshall, Mich., spilling more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, according to the official EPA report on the spill.

"I think the risk is probably small but if it happens, it's going to be a big problem," Ferguson said of the possibility of a similar spill from the Flanagan pipeline, which Enbridge documents say will carry some 600,000 gallons of oil per day once it is operational.

Enbridge Energy did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment for this story, but in Archie, some business owners and residents sought out a visiting reporter to defend the company and praise the coming pipeline as an economic stimulus for the town, if only for a short time.

"For one thing, it's going to fill up the trailer park," RV park owner George Seacord said, "Anyway, that's what they're saying, and so far it's done a real good job of it."

Seacord said he expected his business to improve by at least 90 percent over the months-long construction process and said the workers would likely provide a much-needed lifeline for two struggling restaurants in town.

Seacord called the pipeline the "best thing since Elvis Presley," and dismissed environmental and safety concerns as ancient history.

"Name a business that hasn't had hard luck. There was an airline that crashed an airplane the other day. Should we all quit flying? Same thing," Seacord said.

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