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Thaw shifts oil spill response in Montana

More than 1,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in mid-January.

By Daniel J. Graeber

GLENDIVE, Mont., March 13 (UPI) -- A unified command established to respond to a January oil spill in Montana said it started a new response phase as ice melts in the Yellowstone River.

About 1,000 barrels of oil spilled from the Poplar Pipeline near the Yellowstone River in Glendive, Mont. Around half of the oil released had been recovered before weather forced a suspension of response operations in late February.

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"Response workers say they expect additional sightings of oil and a potential for odor complaints when the ice moves through the city from the site of the pipeline release about 6 miles upriver from Glendive," the unified command said in a late Thursday update. "To respond quickly to either oil sightings or odor complaints additional environmental specialists are being deployed with air monitoring and water sampling equipment."

Area residents were forced to use bottled water in the immediate aftermath of the spill, though the all-clear was given Jan. 22. The unified command, which includes state and federal environmental agencies alongside Poplar operator Bridger Pipeline, said special monitoring equipment was set up at the city's water treatment plant to detect any oil moving into the Glendive water system as ice melts and frees the spilled oil.

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Authorities said about 660 barrels of oil from the spill made its way into the Yellowstone River.

Survey crews found the ruptured section of the pipeline exposed above the bed of the Yellowstone River. A 2011 spill from the Silvertip pipeline, operated by Chevron, was blamed on river scour.

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