A cancer-causing agent has been found in drinking water in Montana days after a pipeline broke and spilled 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River.
Elevated levels of benzene have showed up in samples of water taken from a water treatment plant that serves 6,000 residents. Residents have stockpiled bottled water due to the health scare.
In a statement on their website, Dawson County, Montana said, “While the elevated levels are above the level for long-term consumption, the scientists who reviewed the data at the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] have told the Unified Command that they do not see that domestic use of this water poses a short term public health hazard.”
Officials don’t know how long the situation will last. They have not been able to come up with an effective way to recover the crude, which they say appears to be trapped beneath the ice-covered Yellowstone River.
The pipeline is part of the 42,000 barrel-per-day Poplar pipeline system that carries crude oil from producers in eastern Montana and North Dakota. The spill occurred about 5 miles upstream from Glendive.
Saturday’s spill is the second involving the Yellowstone River since 2011. An ExxonMobil pipeline broke in July 2011, sending 63,000 gallons of oil into the river.
Company and city officials are working on decontaminating the water.
Meanwhile, Bridger Pipeline Co. will provide 10,000 gallons of drinking water to Glendive until the water is safe to drink again.