Yellowstone River Oil Spill Now Extends 150 Miles Downstream


All photos: Alexis Bonogofsky/National Wildlife Federation.

You may have missed this: Over the long holiday weekend in the US an ExxonMobil oil pipeline in Montana ruptured, spilling as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, 10 miles west of Billings. Initial reports had the oil traveling 10 miles down the river, but newer reports have it as extending for 150 miles, with the oil traveling at 5-7 miles per hour. While obviously not on the same scale as other notorious spills in recent memory, any oil spill is still significant, with detrimental effects on wildlife and plants.

What follows are some photos and a first-hand account from National Wildlife Federation's Alexis Bonogofsky:

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. ...

I spent all day yesterday calling our Montana Department of Environmental Quality who told me to call my local Department of Emergency Services. When I called DES, I got an answering machine that said they were on vacation. I was told repeatedly to call an Exxon hotline where the people that answered knew nothing about cleanup, if the oil is hazardous (which it is) and what was going on. They were just there to "take our information." ...

I saw 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.


Billings Gazette has a good account from the start of the spill, with photos of some of the oil-soaked wildlife Alexis mentions.

According to ExxonMobil's most recent statement on the ongoing cleanup, some 150 people are directly involved with cleaning up oil on the banks of the Yellowstone, with more than 48,000 feet of absorbent boom and 2,200 feet of containment boom deployed.

The ruptured pipeline, buried eight feet below the river is 70 miles in length and supplies an Exxon refinery in Billings, Montana.

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The Anatomy of an Oil Spill Cleanup: What Works and What Doesn't

Tags: Montana | Oil | Pollution