Saturday, January 17, 2015: Montana officials said that a pipeline breach spilled crude oil into the Yellowstone River at 10 am near Glendive, Montana. The Bridger Pipeline Company reported that the break was repaired within an hour but still resulted in a spill of 42,000 gallons of oil.
Severe flooding and a river-altering ice flow in spring 2014 scoured several miles of the Yellowstone River, including the area where the pipeline break occurred. The pipeline which was believed to be several feet below the riverbed may actually sit bare on the river's floor, leaving it vulnerable. (Source)
The Yellowstone River is partially frozen this time of year so initial estimates of the cleanup effort and contamination of the water was low because it was thought that the ice would prevent the oil from going downstream. However, the ice also made it hard to find the oil so in the end it hampered cleanup.
Sunday: Water tests in the town of Glendive showed no contamination, however by evening residents were reporting an odor that smelled like diesel fuel. Residents were then told not to drink or cook with the water.
Monday: Cleanup crews were at work to address the mess about 9 miles upstream from Glendive at the origin of the oil spill. Reports showed that the oil had traveled as far as 25 miles downstream from town.
Tuesday: Glendive began trucking in bottled water. The crude oil in Saturday's spill contains hazardous levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical. The town is taking precautions even though it is yet to be confirmed that the spill is a threat to public health in Glendive.
Is Yellowstone National Park in Danger?
The Yellowstone River flows through Yellowstone National Park, streaming in and out of Yellowstone Lake about 400 miles upstream from the spill. Although the spill is a considered a disaster for Montana wildlife and natural resources, the national park is not in immediate danger.
Previous Exxon Mobil Pipeline Oil Spill in 2011
On July 1st in 2011, an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst near the Yellowstone River by Billings, Montana. Twenty-miles of river were affected by 1,000 barrels of crude oil. Read associated story