Some journalists have referred to the Oceti Sakowin camp as an ecological “disaster.” That’s making a mountain out of a molehill. The term “disaster” belongs to events like the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010, which set 210 million gallons of oil loose in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Oceti Sakowin camp hasn’t yet spilled any oil into the river. Yes, there were vehicles left when the camp closed. However, even if the Corps of Engineers fails to get them out, the total oil and gas in them was less than 420 gallons. If House Bill 1151 becomes law, anything under 420 gallons isn’t even worth reporting. Check the North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Incident Reports ( and you'll find a long list of actual spills, not potential spills.

They get little attention. It normally takes something like the Belle Fourche spill, 176,000 gallons, to make the news. Double standard much? There have been accusations that there was human waste left in the camp. Up into December, the camp used portapotties. After that, they switched to composting toilets, which are accepted by the EPA (EPA 832-F-99-066). When the water protectors left camp Feb. 22, their waste had been moved to composting containers off site, where it will safely turn into rich soil.

For comparison, in the flood of 2011, Omaha alone pumped 6 million gallons of raw sewage into the Missouri every day for months. The water protectors had made great progress in cleanup, and the material left was pretty tame: no herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, etc. Hay bales, firewood and lumber are much like the trees and grass that wash into the river with every flood. Even if the corps didn’t clean up another thing, what remained of Oceti Sakowin after Feb. 22 was nowhere near a “disaster.”

Ann Knudson, Bismarck