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. slipery

    Terrible. I bet Yogi and Boo boo are freakin out. No picnic baskets equal no food.

    July 7, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Orin

      Sorry, this just isn't something to joke about whether you are a troll or not. This is a pristine ecosystem, something that is becoming increasingly rare these days and once again our need for oil is destroying it. The thought that we have to have gas run cars is a fallacy. The human race can survive on alternative energy sources and lifestyle changes. We cannot survive without planet Earth. It's like kids arguing to live in a garbage dump so they don't have to take the time to clean their rooms.

      July 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Fids

      PRISTINE..? Surely you jest or distract from reality, if it was Pristine than I suppose that pipeline grew naturally under the river!

      July 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Orin

      Look at the picture. We are talking about a riparian ecosystem that just doesn't need a lot of space to be pristine but holds an amazing amount of life and influence on the environment. When a river is involved, the current takes it downstream, away from the pipeline anyways. But you knew that, I am sure!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mekell

    I guess dumping on the planet is just easier than finding alternative energy sources.

    July 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • RedDave

      When do we declare ENOUGH! Stop already

      July 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. poopdeck

    casey anthony is being released july 13. just announced by judge. i hope the illiterate inbred toothless jurors from florida are happy.

    July 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. somedumbamerican

    I'm tired of big oil companies getting paid in tax breaks to destroy our natural ecosystems across the globe. Now in Montana. Last Best Place To Have An Oil Spill. I want to see some of these Richy-Rich CEO's out there moping this up. Otherwise, it's time to have our French Revolution. Break out the guillotine...

    July 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • FugginMorons

      "it's time to have our French Revolution"

      Our populace is so lazy, ignorant and sedated it will never happen.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • risk

      You can start by changing your self. Keep track of every piece of garbage you generate for one month. Find ways to reduce the amount by 75%. Then convince two other people to do the same. The best way to kill greedy environmentally irresponsible CEO's is with market pressure. No violent revolution needed....

      July 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CSnSC

    @red dave, when you are ready to park your car, shut off your power,and grow your own food. Fool

    July 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Orin

      The human race survived a long time without cars. I don't think that is the answer though. The willingness for alternative energy and lifestyle changes will go a long way though.

      July 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CSnSC

    Tell us how oh wise red dave ! You are the one with caplocks and obviously a magic wand. The rest of us are limited by physical laws !

    July 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • phil

      um luckily corporations aren't limited by ANY laws. it's 'get out of our way, we're making money, obey'

      July 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rudolf

    This poor river is hurt while casey anthony gets off unpunished. Im not kidding.. This is a bunch of cr@p.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Wow, I guess when the media picked this trial out of the thousands of other murder trials with no relevance outside the courtroom and the defendant and deceased's family and friends, they picked a winner. Not only have they sold lots of papers, but they've gotten people so worked up that angry comments about the trial are overflowing into completely unrelated stories.

      The heck with the planet we all share, what we need are more ill-informed lynch mobs. Got torch?

      July 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Connie

    People keep on giving the parents a pass on what items they lied about , how false Defenses in trial were and weren't facts in evidence .

    Now you will see the Defense Attorneys get rich off of this and the baby killer get rich over this . Don't mistake what the
    real motives were of Defense Attorney to get a high profile case off the hook .

    Proper Justice would be that Casey go to live with the Defense Lawyers and she steals their checks .

    July 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ajd041

    This sucks at least they're taking responsibility and cleaning up and what makes the one woman more special than others I bet the oil hit a few other farms

    July 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Connie

    You people are nuts for wanting to prosecute Nancy Grace for reporting missing children and crimes in this Nation

    What I'm sad about is there is a certain percentage of people in this Nation that feel that the criminals deserve more
    than the victims . Think about how much this criminal Casey has costs this Society . No ,it's more important that the Culprit ,who no doubt wasn't raised right ,never is responsible for her own acts .

    The parents make the mistake of never making Casey responsible in her upbringing ,and now a Jury doesn't make her responsible .

    July 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. phil

    wait how did this thread get derailed into casey anthony? THEY JUST SPILLED 42,000 GALLONS OF OIL INTO THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE I'VE EVER SEEN.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Connie

    The only thing the public can do is not give business to the Defense Attorneys ,Casey or anybody that tries to make money off
    this miscarriage of justice and a horrible death of a baby .

    Boycott any agency that tries to make money off this murderer . Boycott any TV channel that tries to make money off of it .
    If being attractive gets you off the hook for murder ,than I guess that is a testimony to this Society going downhill .

    July 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CSnSC

    Connie, sweety, read the article. I think youre ranting like an idiot on the wrong thread. Try to keep up.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jay Horn

    Hope you all like rolling blackouts because wind and solar power cannot produce the amount of megawatts that we need like oil, natural gas and nuclear power can produce.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Orin

      The destruction of biodiversity and the loss of air, water, and soil quality is not worth an unsustainable system just so that we can have unlimited power. That being said, there is so much more that we can do with these technologies that would take a lot of the pressure off as we develop better methods. Destruction of the environment is not worth unlimited power for just a few generations of humanity. There is only one earth.

      July 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Madashell

    I suppose that the State allowed the oil line to be buried in this Pristine area as long as MONTANA gets some Payoff $$$$$$$$$$ from Big OIl. S.O.S DD the Politicians should be Made to HELP clean-up.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3