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Large oil spill affects Montana Native American reservation

17 May 2018

Trucks have removed more than 1,400 tons of contaminated soil following a large oil spill on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, The Billings Gazette reported. An estimated 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of brine (production water) leaked from an Anadarko Minerals wellhead that was shut in and last inspected in December.

The leaking Anadarko wellhead - Image: EPA
The leaking Anadarko wellhead - Image: EPA

It is believed that the wellhead might have frozen and cracked over the winter, leading to the spill. More than 50 dump trucks full of contaminated soil have been removed, with more to come, the publication noted.

The spill was discovered on April 27 by a farmer doing a flyover in the area. The exact date of the release is unclear.

The wellhead is located near Lustre, in the central region of the Fort Peck Reservation. Oil and brine from the leak travelled around 200 metres to a stock pond used by tribal entities to water livestock.

Fort Peck Reservation, which lies north of the Missouri River, is home to members of the Sioux and Assiniboine nations. Many members adamantly oppose the proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline and its potential to endanger their water supply.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing cleanup operations for the reservation.

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