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Exxon Mobil oil spill leaks 1,000 barrels into Yellowstone River, cleanup complicated by yearly flooding

05 Jul 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: General Environment, Toxics

Nearly 1,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River after an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured near Laurel, Montana Sunday morning, forcing evacuations and extending oil plumes 25 miles down the river. 

Approximately 140 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes due to health and safety concerns, while scores of nearby pastures and farmlandwere contaminated. 

The spill comes at a particularly bad time because the Yellowstone—which has no dams—is at flood levels, making containment and cleanup especially difficult. "The timing couldn't be worse," said Steve Knecht, chief of operations for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services. "With the Yellowstone running at flood stage and all the debris, it makes it dang tough to get out there to do anything." It is unclear how far the oil plumes will travel down the river. 

Exxon Mobil was informed last summer by the U.S. Department of Transportation of seven possible safety violations, which specifically cited the company’s emergency response and pipeline corrosion training as faulty.

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