Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flood Surge Raises Fears of Montana Oil Spill Spread

Crews cleaning up an oil spill on the Yellowstone River faced hard conditions Tuesday as the scenic waterway rose above flood stage and stoked fears that rolling currents could push crude into unspoiled areas and back channels vital to the river's prized fishery.
Conditions on the swollen Yellowstone have disadvantaged efforts to find the cause of Friday's break in the 12-inch pipeline that spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude oil.

The river has been flowing too quickly for crews to reach some oiled areas, and forecasters said mountain snowmelt was adding to high water levels. Officials speculated that the rush may push oil into areas that haven't yet been damaged.

Much of the riverbank also is enclosed with dense underbrush, making it difficult to walk the shoreline. Most observations have been made through aerial flights.

Sweat-drenched workers in hazmat suits and life-preservers slogged throughout the riverside vegetation under a blistering sun. Some raked oily muck into trash bags; others dabbed at blackened grass with absorbent pads.

Booms to collect the oil bobbed in water, and plastic kiddie pools were set up for workers to wash off their boots once they gone the water.

A few miles downriver from the broken pipe, homeowner Robert Castleberry said he had been out of his house since Saturday since of dangerous fumes from oil that the river pushed across his yard and into the crawlspace beneath his house.

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