It has been over a week since the leak of the Keystone line was announced. More than 600,000 gallons of oil spilled into the water.

It will likely take years to clean up this mess, according to environmental advocates.

The operators were made aware of the issue on December 7. As of Friday morning, 4,125 barrels of oil from the creek have been recovered, according to the company.

The leak has affected a nearby pasture and residents' farmland.

The cause for the spill is not known. The type of oil that was being transported through the line was tar sands oil.

Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Alliance, and Anthony Swift, director of the Canada Project with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that this thick, toxic substance makes it more difficult to clean up.

tar sands disasters are worse than traditional oil spills. Tar sands are more difficult to clean up. Kleeb toldNPR that this is going to take years. She has been watching oil spills for over a decade.

Initial estimates of the amount of oil actually spilled can be incorrect.

She said that the initial number would usually double.

The full picture of the leak will not be known until the recovery process is complete.

"Our commitment to the community is that our response efforts will continue until we have fully remediated the site," the company said. We have everything we need to mount an effective response and clean-up, and that's what we're doing.

Diluted bitumen is like "peanut butter"

TransCanada, formerly known as TC Energy, says it's the parent company of the Keystone line. The project that was canceled is not the same as the one that is currently being built.

Swift said that the effort to respond to the Mill Creek spill will be a difficult one, even though the training and equipment of the company is good.

Bitumen doesn't flow through apipeline efficiently so it is mixed with diluents to be ready for transportation as dilbit.

Swift said it was almost peanut butter consistency.

He says that most containment efforts don't work for Bitumen. One of the first things to do when there is an oil spill in a waterway is to set up booms.

Bitumen doesn't float like conventional oil does. Most means of spill removal in water bodies rely on oil staying on top of the water body.

Bitumen eventually sinks to the bottom of rivers and wetlands, making containment much more difficult and expensive.

Swift said that the material causes major problems on land.

He said that once the tar sands are on something, you have to extract everything. TheBitumen can migrate and it can get into soils. It can become a bigger problem if it's left for too long.

Experts compare this spill to a 2010 Kalamazoo incident

The 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill is what Kleeb and Swift think about.

A million gallons of tar-sands crude oil was released into Talmadge Creek in July of 2010 near Marshall, Mich. The environmental disaster was caused by a broken pipe from the company. A 30 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River was contaminated by the spill.

Over one million gallons of oil were recovered from the river. It has been estimated that it cost over a billion dollars.

People on the ground will have to prepare for the long haul.

I've never seen a tar sands spill in a creek. We don't know what that will look like or how it will affect the creek's flora. Kleeb did not include the pasture land.

The spills have an impact on the land for a long time. There is a lot of work to be done to make sure that the root system is not impacted by the polluted soil. All of that precious topsoil is now destroyed and will never be found again.

This is not TC Energy's first, second, or third spill

According to a Government Accountability Office report, there have been 22 reported leaks of Keystone. It is now up to at least 23.

The severity of spills has worsened in recent years, butKeystone's accident history has been the same since 2010, according to the GAO. Most of the accidents from 2010 to 2020 released less than 50 barrels of oil and were contained on operator controlled property.

ThePHMSA granted a special permit for certain parts of the line to operate at a higher pressure than is normally allowed.

Swift and Kleeb expressed concerns over the permit and wondered if the higher stress level was a factor in the spill.

She said that the number of spills from this one line was atypical. The company should not have been given a permit to pump at higher pressure.

There are a lot of requirements for the reporting of accidents. Accidents that have a release of 5 gallons or more of hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide are required by federal regulations.

Two of the largest spills in the history of the company happened in the last two years. Government data shows that the spill is the biggest in the history of the line.

The agency's most stringent enforcement tool was issued in response to the Mill Creek case.