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Oil pollutants in water plant from Montana spill

January oil spill left around 600 barrels of oil in the Yellowstone River.

By Daniel J. Graeber

GLENDIVE, Mont., March 16 (UPI) -- Though a conservation order remains in place, responders to a January oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana said water treatment has been effective.

Officials in the city of Glendive, Mont., last week called on area residents to conserve water after detecting higher than normal levels of pollutants at the region's water treatment plant. Filtration in place since Saturday brought pollutant levels to zero, though authorities said Sunday a conservation plea remains in place while the treatment plant refills its reserve tanks.

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About 1,000 barrels of oil spilled Jan. 17 from the Poplar Pipeline near the Yellowstone River in Glendive, Mont. Around half of the oil released had been recovered before cold weather forced a suspension of response operations in late February.

Though pollutants were reported at the Glendive Water Treatment plant, authorities said at no time was the area drinking water contaminated. Bottled water was provided to some areas as a precautionary measure.

Area residents were forced to use bottled water in the immediate aftermath of the spill. That order was lifted Jan. 22.

Bridger Pipeline is the operator of the facility. A unified command set up by the company, state, federal and local officials said special monitoring equipment was in place at the 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. Response operations resumed last week as ice melted from the river. The unified command said Friday "assessment teams found no recoverable oil at any point along the river from the site of the leak north to the Montana/North Dakota border."

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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