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Tap Water Once Again Deemed Safe After Oil Spill Into Yellowstone River

About 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the river. Residents in three towns were told not to drink from the tap and instead use water trucked in by the government.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Thousands of residents in Montana who've been using trucked-in water after a large oil spill into the Yellowstone River were told Friday that the municipal supply is now safe to drink.

On Jan. 17, an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana, officials said, forcing government officials to truck in drinkable water for 6,000 residents in Glendive and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.

The city's water was certified safe to drink on Friday after tests showed it no longer had harmful levels of benzene, a cancer-causing component of crude, the Associated Press reported.

Wyoming-based Bridger Pipeline LLC, which operates the line, said Friday it will replace the pipeline with a new line buried more deeply to protect against future accidents.

The cause of the spill, meanwhile, remains under investigation.

The spill was discovered Jan. 17 after a reported a decrease in pressure, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Company flew over the river and saw a sheen of oil.

Residents said they could smell oil coming off the water. The Grand Forks Herald reported that the federal "Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement Monday evening that elevated levels of hydrocarbons have been found in Glendive's water supply."

Municipal water systems downstream from Glendive on the Yellowstone were notified by DEQ of the Bridger Pipeline system failure, including Sidney and Williston in North Dakota.

In late 2013, the company was cited by the U.S. Department of Transportation for not following the proper reporting procedures, the Wall Street Journal reported. No fine was issued.

"Our primary concern is to minimize the environmental impact of the release and keep our responders safe as we clean up from this unfortunate incident," said Tad True, vice president of Bridger Pipeline.

Here's Governor Steve Bullock's emergency order:

Here's a map of where the spill is:

Tom Namako is the deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tom Namako at tom.namako@buzzfeed.com.

Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jason Wells at jason.wells@buzzfeed.com.

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