A full two weeks have passed since an Exxon Mobil pipeline near Laurel, Montana burst and spilled some 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. Clean-up efforts are underway, and Exxon has announced that the company plans to drain whatever oil remains in the damaged line. Much to the chagrin of Montana’s governor, Exxon has said repeatedly that they do not know how much oil is still in the pipeline or exactly how much flowed into the scenic waterway. Draining could begin this weekend, and may last for several weeks.
The 12-inch pipeline is buried 8 feet underground, and the cause of the July 1 rupture in the line is still under investigation. Exxon says that about 1,000 barrels of oil spilled into the river, and only nine have been recovered. But the on-site EPA coordinator told the Associated Press that there is no more recoverable oil flowing downstream. Rising waters caused the oil to spill over onto the shores.
Landowners and farmers along the river have no doubt been affected by the spill the most. They are unable to graze their livestock, and they’ve been told that it might be as long as two years before they can cultivate their land again. The EPA says that soil along the river is being tested, and within a week, they should be able to give the landowners more definite answers.
Representatives from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks began searching the river this week for damage to individual animals as well as the river’s greater ecology. One worker told the AP that there are still a lot of places that they have not yet been able to reach.
On Wednesday, Exxon submitted a new clean-up plan to the EPA, which rejected Exxon’s first plan, saying that it was insufficient and lacking key components. It is currently being reviewed. The EPA has given Exxon a September 9 deadline for completing the clean up, which to us — and certainly to the farmers and landowners affected — seems like a really long time away.