Federal Officials Respond to Yellowstone River Oil Spill
An ExxonMobil pipeline spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the river near Billings, Mont., last week
On July 1, a break occurred in a 12-in. pipeline owned by ExxonMobil that resulted in a spill of crude oil into the Yellowstone River approximately 20 miles upstream of Billings, Mont. According to the company’s estimates, 1,000 barrels of oil entered the river, which is in flood stage, before the pipeline was cut off.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) primary concern is protection of human health and the environment, and the agency is conducting both air and water sampling to determine what impacts the spill may have on air or water quality, while also ensuring the responsible party is held accountable.
EPA has initiated air and water quality sampling and will make the results available to the public as soon as the data are available. Air monitoring using real-time instruments that look for volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide is ongoing with no detections in the last 72 hours.
EPA is also directing and overseeing cleanup activities since arriving at the site. As of Wednesday, approximately 440 responders are on the scene and conducting cleanup activities. Personnel continue to walk the shores and deploy absorbent boom along the riverbanks to absorb oil that has collected in slow water areas along the shoreline. Responders continue to work to assess where the oil has traveled and what impact it may be having.
The river has been divided into four divisions for planning and operational purposes. Initial cleanup activities are concentrated in the first two divisions where responders have identified the most oil-impacted areas. The third river segment will also undergo reconnaissance and cleanup.
EPA issued an order to ExxonMobil, pursuant to the Clean Water Act, directing the company to take a number of cleanup and restoration activities as a result of an oil spill into the river. EPA will continue in its role in directing and overseeing the cleanup and restoration of the river and ensuring the protection of human health and the environment.
Agency officials are coordinating its response actions with the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and state and local agencies and will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure ExxonMobil, as the responsible party, addresses any and all potential impacts of this spill.
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