The camp inhabited by the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters once held as many as 10,000 people, although only a determined 1,000 planned to stay on through the rough North Dakota winter. As the weather begins to warm once again, though, sanitation crews are scrambling to remove six months' worth of trash before it becomes "toxic," NBC's West Dakota affiliate reports.
"Standing Rock Environmental Protection Agency and Dakota Sanitation are working together to try and avert an environmental tragedy," explained Tom Doering, the Morton County Emergency Manager.
Authorities are concerned about the possibility of other kinds of tragedies, too. Every load of trash is carefully combed by the Morton County Sheriff's department: "We are looking for, as I said, anything illegal, anything that might be used to, I guess, harm our officers during a protest," said Morton County Sheriff's Office Captain Jay Gruebele. He added, "As bad as it sounds, we're looking for people that may have died and could be wrapped up in a canvas or a tarp or tent."
So far, about 23 loads of trash have been processed. Authorities expect it will take 250 truck loads to clear the camp of all its trash.