Up to 50K Gallons of Oil Spills Into Yellowstone River

Some Montana residents complain their drinking water smells like diesel
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2015 9:22 AM CST
Cleanup workers cut holes into the ice on the Yellowstone River near Crane, Mont., on Jan. 19, 2015, while recovering oil from an upstream pipeline spill that released up to 50,000 gallons of crude.   (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency for two counties yesterday after a 12-inch oil pipeline burst Saturday, pouring up to 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River near the town of Glendive, the state's Department of Environmental Quality reports. Bridger Pipeline Co. noticed the breach Saturday around 10am and shut the pipeline down by 11am, per a company statement. A spokesman for Bullock initially told the AP that "we think it was caught pretty quick" and noted the frozen river may minimize damage. But cleanup crews are struggling through the ice, the AP notes. And although initial tests revealed no oil in the drinking water, residents started noting Sunday that they "smelled something funny" in the water; the EPA said in a statement last night that elevated hydrocarbon levels were detected in Glendive's water, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

Drinking water is now being trucked into Glendive "as a precaution," say officials; an advisory against drinking water from the local treatment plant was also issued last night, the AP notes. Officials had said earlier yesterday that contamination was unlikely because of oil's tendency to float (the water intake is nestled 14 feet below the surface). The DEQ notes a few oil sheens have been seen, with the AP reporting one 60 miles downstream from Glendive. In addition to the EPA and DEQ, the Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Service, and DOT are all assessing the mess and assisting with cleanup, notes the Herald. "Our primary concern is to minimize the environmental impact of the release and keep our responders safe as we clean up from this unfortunate incident," Bridger VP Tad True said in the statement. (An Exxon Mobile pipeline flooded the Yellowstone River nearly four years ago.)

My Take on This Story