Recovery Plan Announced For Yellowstone River Oil Spill

Exxon Mobil, the corporation responsible for the Yellowstone River oil spill earlier this month, has announced plans to drain the remaining oil from the failed pipeline that caused the spill.

The oil spill happened on the night of July 1st, when a faulty pipeline owned by Exxon Mobil ruptured near Laurel, Montana, in the Yellowstone River. The spill leaked an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into the river in the span of half an hour. Fearing a possible explosion, officials in Laurel evacuated approximately 140 people before allowing them to return several hours later. The cause of the pipeline’s failure has yet to be exactly determined. The fire chief in Laurel has speculated that high water eroded part of the river bed, exposing the pipeline to debris and ultimately causing it to rupture. In the wake of the spill, Exxon Mobil issued a statement saying the corporation “deeply regrets this release and is working hard with local emergency authorities to mitigate the impacts of this release on the surrounding communities and to the environment.”

A spokesperson for Exxon Mobil has since announced that the oil that was spilled has been contained within 10 miles of the original spill site, a claim that has been disputed by the government of Montana. Out of the estimated 1,000 barrels of oil spilled, only 9 barrels have been recovered so far. The EPA does not expect that number to rise, as it will be difficult to recover any more oil. Instead, cleanup and recovery efforts are being focused on the shoreline in an effort to minimize damage to the ecosystem. This week, representatives from the EPA will begin searching the river for any remaining oil.

Exxon Mobil has submitted a cleanup plan to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan is being reviewed in order to make sure it adheres to cleanup standards imposed by the state. State cleanup standards are stricter than standards imposed by the federal government. The EPA has given Exxon Mobil a timeline of less than two months to finish cleanup: all oil must be removed and all affected areas of shoreline must be recovered by September 9th.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the oil spill has claimed the lives of a fish and a duck. In addition, several animals that were covered with oil have been captured for rehabilitation. Other animals with smaller amounts of oil on them have been spotted but have remained in their own habitat.

In terms of human health, health officials in Yellowstone County have announced that twenty people have reported health concerns, most of which were caused by inhaling fumes given off by the oil. No one has been hospitalized, and the concern for public health is low as the fumes have considerably lessened.

Almost two weeks after the incident, the corporation has announced its plans to drain any remaining oil left in the faulty pipeline. It is unclear how much oil remains in the 1,600 foot section of 12-inch pipeline. The oil will be suctioned out using vacuum trucks. Draining could begin as early as this weekend and will take several days to complete.

A meeting, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, was held near the site of the spill and was attended by approximately 100 people. Residents of the affected area are concerned about the effects of oil on their land and have not yet determined when they will be able to start using the land again. A representative from the EPA has announced that soil along the banks of the river will be tested and that the results should be ready within a week.

Photo Credit: nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/water/creeksstreamsrivers/yelllaked/Images/17562.jpg

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