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US river contaminated by Exxon spill

04 July 2011

An underwater pipeline, operated by ExxonMobil, ruptured and released up to 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana. ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, the midstream unit of the US supermajor, said it “deeply regrets the release,” fouling the riverbank and forcing water intakes downstream to be closed.

The break in south-central Montana released a 40-km trail that stained the riverbank, which also prompted temporary evacuations of residents along the 32-km stretch.

“Early on the morning of July 2, we discovered an undetermined amount of crude oil was released into the Yellowstone River from an ExxonMobil Pipeline Company (EMPCo) pipeline,” the company said in a statement.

“EMPCo deeply regrets this release and is working hard with local emergency authorities to mitigate the impacts of this release on the surrounding communities and to the environment,” it added.

The 12” crude pipeline, which runs from Silver Tip to Billings in Montana, has been shutdown and the segment where the release occurred has been isolated.

“At this early stage, we have no information on the cause of the incident, and we are working to determine the amount of oil released,” the company said, who has alerted state and federal authorities.

ExxonMobil spokeswoman Pam Malek said the pipe leaked an estimated 750 to 1,000 barrels of oil for about a half-hour before it was shut down. Other Exxon officials had estimated up to 158,982 liters of crude oil escaped.

Booms were immediately deployed by cleanup crews as the slick drifted downstream at 10 kph. The river has no dams on its way to its confluence with the Missouri River just across the Montana border in North Dakota. It was unclear how far the plume might travel.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the parties responsible will restore the Yellowstone River.

“We recognise the seriousness of this incident and are working hard to address it,” the company said. “Our principal focus is on protecting the safety and health of the public and our employees.”

“We will, of course, also begin a thorough investigation of the cause of this unfortunate event. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

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