Yellowstone Oil Spill Reeks Havoc on Residents

Oil spills seem to be popping up everywhere recently. The BP oil spill back in April of 2010 was of epic proportions and ravaged the Gulf of Mexico. That spill increased safety concerns regarding drilling and prompted new regulations to be instituted in the United States. Recently another distressing oil spill has emerged. Although this spill is not as large or as public as the Gulf spill, it certainly is just as devastating to the surrounding environment and communities.

The oil spill occurred on July 1, 2011 near Laurel, Montana- 175 miles downstream from the northern boundary of Yellowstone Nation Park. The spill occurred as a result of a ruptured Exxon Mobile pipeline, which runs under the Yellowstone riverbed. The cause of the break is uncertain at this time and an investigation is being conducted to determine the exact cause. However, a theory was suggested by officials that the forceful current of the river caused erosion which exposed the pipeline to environmental damage.

The spill has been stopped. According to company representatives the spill lasted “at most 30 minutes.” This statement was proven false though, when United States Department of Transportation records were released indicating the pipeline was not completely shut down until 56 minutes after the break occurred. The burst poured an estimated 1000 barrels of crude oil into the river- equivalent to 42000 gallons.

The spill has contaminated miles. Being carried by the Yellowstone River, it has polluted farmland and fishing grounds around the site. Although most of the spill is concentrated within the first 25 miles of the incident, sightings have been reported as far as 80 miles downstream. The Yellowstone is the longest undammed river and leads into the Missouri River- one of the largest waterways in the United States. Therefore concern about the oils continued spread is high.

The environmental damage sustained is alarming. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meeting was held on July 6, 2011. Approximately 150 residents attended brimming with questions concerning the extent of the cleanup, health risks from the pollution, and the impact the spill would have long-term on the area.
Gary Pruessing, President of the Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to clean up the debacle and assured “We are not limiting the scope of our cleanup to the immediate site.” The full effect of the spill on farming and fishing industries in the area is unsure, but residential concern is high.
As far as health risks, residents have reported feelings of nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath according to health officials. These symptoms led some residents to be hospitalized and diagnosed with acute hydrocarbon exposure due to inhalation of toxic oil fumes. EPA’s Steve Merritt announced that Exxon Mobile contractors will collect air samples near the site for testing and assured that duplicate samples will be obtained so results can be verified by government laboratories as well.
This spill has devastated communities and Exxon Mobile seems to be trying to downplay the event. Nonetheless the facts speak for themselves and with oil being reported as far as it is, the event is certainly not minor. People in the area are outraged and concerned- both for their environment and wellbeing. Exxon Mobile has taken accountability for its actions and is expected to keep its word to restore the area and its communities back to their original vitality.

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