Tracking the Yellowstone oil spill
Workers try to clean up oil Wednesday along the flooded Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana.
July 7th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Tracking the Yellowstone oil spill

Under normal conditions, the Yellowstone River is a beautiful body of water, a postcard picture of America's West.

But now pockets of thick crude oil appear along the river's banks in Billings, Montana. Around 42,000 gallons of the stuff leaked into the river last week after an oil pipeline ruptured.

No one knows why the pipeline broke. It should have been buried under 5 to 8 feet of the riverbed, said Claire Hassett, a spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil, the pipeline's owner.

One culprit could be the heavy flooding hitting the area. It's possible the floodwaters could have exposed the pipeline and debris floating downstream, then caused the rupture.

Even though the oil spill is widespread, it's not always easy to get to. In Laurel, Montana, near where the spill happened, Exxon security guards block off a public road leading to cleanup operations. Media from around the world wait to be escorted into one area to film the spill. Hassett said the escort is to protect reporters from the floodwaters.

When we are allowed to document some of the cleanup, we see groups of workers in waders dabbing up the sludge with absorbent pads.

It's going to be a painstakingly long process, one that worries Alexis Bonogofsky. She grew up on the same farm where she now raises goats and chickens. Oil has polluted the edge of her farmland and prevents her from grazing her animals.

She hasn't been told how long the cleanup will take and what the health effects will be. But she says she is afraid the spill will haunt this region for some time.

"You go down to where the oil is," she says, "and you don't hear anything anymore. No birds, no toads, no crickets, nothing. It's just silent."

Post by:
Filed under: Energy • Environment • Montana
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Dan

    n 2005, Dick Cheney authored a loophole to the Clean Water Act so that Halliburton and other oil companies making a profit from fracking could drill without any federal regulation. Over the last few months, 100,000 DFA members have joined our campaign to pass the FRAC Act in Congress, the bill that would reverse Cheney's loophole once and for all.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    In 2005, Dick Cheney authored a loophole to the Clean Water Act so that Halliburton and other oil companies making a profit from fracking could drill without any federal regulation. Over the last few months, 100,000 DFA members have joined our campaign to pass the FRAC Act in Congress, the bill that would reverse Cheney's loophole once and for all.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Connie M.

    I just finished writing a research paper on the Silvertip spill that took place on July 1st, 2011. I thought it was interesting how ExxonMobil handle the spill. I understand that that the flood water made the clean up process virtually impossible at he the time. I think considering all the factors they did the best they could do during this time. While writing my paper I learned alot about the materials used to contain the oil. I live about 25 miles down river from where this spill originated and recall the monitoring that took place along the river. I also recall the proactive responces that farmers and ranchers along the river took. Oil spills take a toll on the environment. Even nine months later, oil is being discovered along the banks of the Yellowstone. Only time will heal the river.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3