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Montana oil spill response phase shifts

Oil removed from pipeline at the site of Yellowstone River breach.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Crews in Montana shift response efforts in Yellowstone River after all oil removed from ruptured Poplar pipeline system. Photo: Bridger Pipeline LLC.
Crews in Montana shift response efforts in Yellowstone River after all oil removed from ruptured Poplar pipeline system. Photo: Bridger Pipeline LLC.

GLENDIVE, Mont., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The team responding to an oil spill into the Yellowstone River in Montana said it was shifting gears after all of the oil was removed from the Poplar pipeline.

Crews responding to the mid-January spill said they've recovered about half of the oil spilled from the Poplar pipeline, found exposed in the river near Glendive, Mont. Crews have been able to pull about 9.5 barrels, or around 400 gallons, per day from the ice-covered river itself.

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"The unified command in charge of responding to the Poplar Pipeline oil spill is shifting to an interim phase now that all of the oil remaining in the pipeline has been recovered," the response team announced Saturday. "On-ice recovery of oil from the Yellowstone River will continue as conditions allow."

A brief thaw last week forced crews to suspend recovery efforts from the river. The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures below the freezing point for most of the first half of the week.

Given the extent of recovery operations since the Jan. 17 release, representatives from Montana state agencies said they're concerned the response activity may be more damaging to the river system than the spill itself.

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Area residents were forced to use bottled water in the immediate aftermath of the spill, though the all-clear was given Jan. 22.

A crew is working on a camera system that would be inserted into the pipeline to determine what led to the breach. A 2011 spill from the Silvertip pipeline, operated by Chevron, was blamed on river scour.

Poplar is operated by Bridger Pipeline. Around 1,000 barrels of oil total was released.

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