July 4, 2020

Yellowstone National Park Oil Spill

Residents in Montana are angry as fears rise that the weekend oil spill into the Yellowstone River is headed to North Dakota, the L.A. Times reported July 4. High water levels have hindered cleanup efforts as Gov. Brian Schweitezer, a Democrat, tried to assess the extent of the ExxonMobil spill. Residents fear damage to the downstream fisheries and wildlife and have been highly critical of ExxonMobil’s cleanup efforts so far.

Yellowstone National Park Oil Spill

The spill was first detected Friday, July 1, when pressure reading for the pipeline dropped, according Exxon. Workers were able to shut the one-foot pipe within six minutes, according to ExxonMobil. Estimates are that between 750 to 1,000 barrels of oil, or as much as 42,000 gallons, spilled into the Yellowstone River.

Cleanup efforts so far have been led by ExxonMobil contractors, with more than 120 workers devoted to the cleanup, according to an ExxonMobil spokesman. Because of high water lever levels, though, only a few workers were able to lay pads and booms to trap the oil. Fears are that the oil may be seeping under the booms.

Exxon has crews flying over the area and claims the spill is contained within ten miles of the spill, a figure disputed by Gov. Schweitezer.

“Nobody can say definitively, it’s too early. We need boats on the water,” said the governor. Because of the high-water, though, boating is considered unsafe.

Organization efforts have been started by locals residents to demand greater transparency and accountability from ExxonMobil. Alexis Bonogofsky, an area rancher, an her husband Mike Scott, a member of the Sierra Club, blamed the local government for relying too much on ExxonMobil assessments.

“Nobody is telling us what we could have been exposed to,”" said Scott.

Exxon’s Jeffers says that nothing is being withheld from the public and that company tests, including air monitoring readings, have shown no cause for public health concerns.

The pipeline was last inspected by Exxon in 2009, using a robotic device to detect for flaws or corrosion, and was found to be safe. It was temporarily shut down in May when company officials were concerned that seasonal flooding could damage the pipe, but was reopened after an assessment of the line’s safety record. State and company officials speculated that a record rainfall later that month may have damaged the pipe.

Fears now are that the spill could reach the Missouri River in North Dakota. According to Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, there were reports of oil as far as 100 miles from the site, contradicting Exxon’s figures.

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