An ExxonMobil oil pipeline ruptured late Friday, July 1, spilling an unknown volume of oil into the Yellowstone River, initially forcing many to evacuate over fears of a possible explosion.
On Saturday, July 2, an exposed portion of an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured, spilling an unknown volume of oil into the Yellowstone River, 10 miles west of Billings, Montana.
The spill coated parts of the river that flow past the town of Laurel, population about 6500; approximately 140 people were immediately evacuated from the area, but were later allowed to return after fears of a possible explosion were allayed.
The company mobilized its North American Regional Response team to deal with the spill and monitor drinking water in the vicinity of the spill. So far, according to the company, the drinking water is safe.
Meanwhile, work crews have been laying down absorbent sheets along the banks of that stretch of the river to soak up as much of the escaped oil as possible. Exxon scientists continue to monitor the area fro any potential health threats.
It is claimed from initial reports that the rupture resulted from debris puncture; unusually high, spring waters, it is believed, may have caused extensive erosion of the river banks in that area, exposing the 12 inch diameter pipeline to fast-moving debris.
Officials from the EPA arrived at the south-central Montana section of the river on Sunday to assess the damage.
The pipeline runs from Silver Tip, Mont., to Billings, an area with three refineries. According to Exxon-Mobil, all three refineries (and their connected pipelines) were shut down within a half hour of the spill being reported (originally, by local news station KTVQ).
The Yellowstone River is a tributary of the Missouri River and runs some 692 miles (1, 114 km). The river, and its numerous tributaries, stretches from the Rocky Mountains (close to Yellowstone National Park) and onward across southern Montana and northern Wyoming. It is the longest, undammed river in the 48 contiguous states.
In Montana, the river has been used extensively for irrigation of croplands for over 150 years and is also a popular fly-fishing destination.
It is not clear form initial reports what, if any, wildlife was impacted by the spill.
To read more on this spill, check out the NY Time article Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil into Yellowstone River
Top photo: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette, via Associated Press
Bottom photo: Mike Cline ; CC – By – SA 3.0
Map: Shannon 1; CC – By – SA 3.0