Oil Pipeline Bursts Into Yellowstone River

Pipe spills 1, 000 barrels of oil into national park river

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The National Wildlife Foundation's Alexis Bonogofsky lives on the Yellowstone River and has a farm there. When the ExxonMobil oil pipeline below the Yellowstone River burst late Friday night leaking oil into the river and contaminating the local waterway, her farmland was contaminated with oil from the spill. Exxon officials told Alexis that she should not document the effects the spill has on her property and that she should stay from the oil "just to be safe." They told her "off the record" that she should move her livestock away from the parts of the farm affected by the spill.

She wrote about her experience on Sunday morning:

I walked down to our bottom pasture because the River was supposed to flood and I wanted to see if it had come over its banks. Sure enough, there was about 2 feet of water in the pasture. I got this overwhelming smell of hydrocarbons (very distinct smell especially around here because there are 3 refineries). I checked our local paper and saw that a pipeline had ruptured. Even though this had been going on for over 7 hours, and we are right on the River, we received no call, no warning...nothing. I had to find out about it by seeing it in our pastures. Apparently they evacuated people further up stream that were closer to the pipeline.

The plume of oil is about 25 miles (40 kilometres) long. 140 people were evacuated from their homes because of the spill. The oil was discovered around 11:30 pm Friday and the pipe was shut off by midnight.

About 750 to 1, 000 barrels of oil leaked into the river over half an hour before the pipeline was shut down on Saturday according to Pam Malek, an ExxonMobil spokeswoman. Other Exxon officials have been quoted saying  up to 42, 000 gallons of oil leaked into the river. About 120 miles of the waterway in Billings, Montana is being considered contaminated. The oil flowed easily along the river because of flood conditions expected this weekend.

Exxon has called in its Global Response Team, an emergency cleanup crew, out of Houston to direct the clean up efforts, according to the Billings Gazette. They have also contacted about 100 contractors out of Washington to come in and help. Montana's state government is going to monitor Exxon throughout the cleaning process. Crews from local refineries spent parts of Friday night and all day Saturday working to clean up.

Bonogofsky said she could see, "birds trying to take off that couldn’t because of oil on their wings, I saw a spiny soft shell turtle dive into a glob of oil."

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