Massive Oil Spill On Yellowstone River: Montana Governor Declares State of Emergency

A burst Montana pipeline sent as much as 50,400 gallons of oil gushing into the Yellowstone River, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency, according to CNN.

Bridger Pipeline, LLC, said on Monday it has shut the 42,000 barrel-per-day Poplar pipeline system after a weekend breach that sent as much as 1,200 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana, reports Reuters.

The company said crews are now cleaning up the site after the leak on Saturday morning. Bridger estimates between 300 and 1,200 barrels spilled, but could not say how much of the light crude flowed into the river. The Yellowstone River is partially frozen, making it difficult to clean up the mess.

The pipeline system runs from the Canadian border to Baker, Montana, where it meets the Butte pipeline. The Poplar system gathers crude from Bakken producers in eastern Montana and North Dakota. The company cannot yet say when the line will reopen or what caused the leak.

“Our primary focus right now is on response and cleaning it up as quickly as we can,” said Bill Salvin, a spokesman for the privately held Bridger Pipeline.

Residents in nearby cities were told not to drink the tap water, which some said smelled like diesel.

Glendive City Council member Gerald Reichert was among the residents who noticed a disturbing odor in the drinking water.

“Suddenly at our house there was a definite smell. It was a diesel smell.”

According to CBS News, truckloads of drinking water were being shipped to the city of Glendive on Monday after traces from the spill were detected in public water supplies, raising concerns about a potential health risk.

Preliminary tests at the city’s water treatment plant indicated that at least some oil got into a water supply intake along the river, according to state and federal officials. About 6,000 people are served by the intake, Glendive Mayor Jerry Jimison said.

Officials stressed that they were bringing in the shipments of drinking water as a precaution and did not know yet whether there was any health threat. Results of further tests to determine the scope of the danger were expected in coming days.

The spill is the second in the river in recent years. In 2011, Exxon Mobil Corp’s 40,000 barrel per day Silvertip pipeline in Montana ruptured underneath the river, releasing more than 1,000 barrels of crude and costing the company about $135 million to clean up.

[Image via CNN]